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(fimmll Wimvmxt^ ptatg 


Barnes Morgan Hart 

fl> iiifti'. 


3 1924 087 955 534 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

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the United States on the use of the text. 

A Text Book of IHsh Literature. 

A Text Book of Irish 

part II. 





M. H. GILL & SON, Ltd, 

D A-V I D N U T T . 



v^v-'i^ Ai:*i-s X.J. 



• *.... 





Chap. I. 

The Fenian Tales 



Characteristics of the Fenian Legends . 


„ III. 

Origin of the Fenian Tales 


„ IV. 

Historical Probability of the Fenian 




Longer Fenian Romances 


,, VI. 

Ossianic Poetry 


„ VII. 

Lyric Poems . 


„ VIII. 

Classical and Mediaeval Adaptations . 


„ IX. 

The Last of the Annalists 



The Annals of the Four Masters 


„ XI. 

Annals and Historical Tracts . 


„ XII. 

Geoffrey Keating 


„ XIII. 

Satires and Burlesques 


„ XIV. 

The Later Bards 


„ XV. 

The Jacobite Poets 


„ XVI. 

The Poets of the People 



-Bibhography . . . . 



• •<•<* 



The general outline of the theory here advanced as 
to the origin and spread of the Fenian Legends was 
suggested to me by reading in proof, some time ago, 
Mr. John Mac Neill's introduction to his volume con- 
taining a portion of the collection of Ossianic poems 
known as " Duanaire Finn," just published by the Irish 
Texts Society. I had long been pondering the special 
features presented by these legends and endeavouring 
to construct some theory of their origin which would 
combine such facts as are at present known. The 
suggestions offered in Mr. Mac Neill's essay regarding 
the genealogies of Finn, and the general consensus 
of opinion among the Irish mediaeval genealogists 
that he was sprung from the pre-Milesian or old inhabi- 
tants of the country, known by the name of the Firbolg 
race, seemed worthy of consideration, and I endeavoured 
to work out the idea in greater detail. The result will be 
found in the notes on the legends which occupy the 
first five chapters of this volume. The theory seems to 
explain much that was obscure as to the early origin of 
the tales and their very general hold on the people, in 
spite of the fact that they do not seem, until a late period, 
to have been considered by the official scribes as worthy 
of a place in their collections. It may be objected that 
a text book for students is not the place in which to 
advance or discuss new theories of any kind ; but 
whether the explanation here offered be finally accepted 
or not, it has at least this advantage, that it brings to 
light and combines a large number of details met with 
in the tales themselves which could not without some 


such theory be satisfactorily presented to the student 
at all. Thus cohesion is gained in what is otherwise a 
mere confused mass of data. To my mind, a theory 
which explains many difficulties, and which takes its 
stand on the historical conceptions of the writers who 
recorded the legends is likely to have some foundation 
of truth. It would be singularly improbable that the 
highly popular tradition of Finn and his followers 
should be connected in all the genealogies with the 
despised races who had been conquered by the Gaels 
and who were regarded by them as inferior, unless the 
tradition of their connection were very strong ; unless, 
in fact, these later settlers had themselves received 
the traditions from or through the older races. The 
genealogies are not to be regarded as the pedigrees of 
real personages ; but they are real in the sense that 
they represent the opinion of the learned of an earlier 
day upon the origin and source of the legends ; and 
they are unanimous in ascribing the origin of Finn to 
the Firbolg races, that is, to the pre-Milesian tribes 
then still scattered through the country. It is interesting 
to reflect that the memory of these despised and 
conquered people, in describing whom their successors 
could find no words sufficiently black, has survived 
in a great body of legend which is as fondly regarded 
by their conquerors as it ever could have been by the 
races among whom it first sprang up. 

Mr. John Mac Neill has kindly read the chapters 
relating to the Fenian legends, and I have also to thank 
Mr. J. J. O'Kelly and Tadhg O'Donnchadha for helpful 
suggestions in the chapter on Geoffrey Keating and in 
the Chronology, and Mr. A. Nutt for assistance in the 


(The references are to pages in the text, which the 
Chronology is intended only to supplement.) 

fl. 1560. Fearflatha O'Gnive, bard of the O'Neills 
of Clannaboy, accompanied Shane O'Neill to 
London in 1562, when he was summoned by 
Elizabeth. His poems had much influence in 
rousing O'Neill to action in the North, and in 
stirring up the Irish nobles in other parts of 
the kingdom. His best known poem is the 
" Downfall (or ' stepping-down ') of the Gael," 
a lament over the condition of Ireland and the 
inaction of the chiefs. This O'Gnive, or more 
probably another bard of the same name, wrote 
a lament on the death of Teigue Dall O'Higgin, 
who was murdered in 1617 by the O'Haras. 

1550 (?). LoGHLiN 6g O'Daly. O'Reilly gives the above 
date, but he seems from, his poem, " Whither 
are gone the Gael ? " to have lived on into the 
period of the Ulster plantations {infra p. 159). 
He wrote also an address to Owny O'Loghlin 
of Burren in Clare, and a poem on the expulsion 
of the Franciscan friars from their convents. 

d. 1570. Angus O'Daly Fionn, called na diadhachta or 
" The Divine," a voluminous religious poet. 
O'Reilly gives fifteen poems by him chiefly 
penitential or in praise of the Blessed Virgin, 
and others are known. A particularly sweet 


poem is his Grian na maighdean mathair De, 
" Sun of all Virgins the mother of God." 

d. 1617. Angus O'Daly, called the " Red Bard " or 
" Angus of the Satires," wrote a poem lam- 
pooning the chief families of Ireland (pp. 174-6) 
for Carew, in whose service he seems to have 
been retained. He lived at Ballyovrone, Co. 
Cork. Stabbed in revenge by one of the 
servants of O'Meagher. 

fl. 1566. John mac Torna O'Mulchonaire of ArdchoiU 
in Thomond. A fine ode on the inauguration 
of Brian na Murtha " of the Bulwarks " 
O'Rourke, as chief of Breifney, on the death of 
his brother Hugh in 1566, was written by him. 
It is in a difficult dialect, and a gloss was added 
by Thaddeus O'Rody in the seventeenth century. 
O'Rourke was one of the most powerful and 
determined opponents of Ehzabeth. In 1592 
he was delivered over to the English queen 
by James VI. of Scotland, to whom he had fled 
for refuge, and was hanged at Tyburn. 

fl. 1600. Flann Magrath or M'Craith. Poem on 
Ireland's shepherdless condition, beginning 
" Many the complaints that Ireland utters." 
Poems on Thomas Butler, tenth Earl of Ormond 
(d. 1614), and on Death and Judgment. Some 
of the M'Craiths were poets to the O'Byrnes 
of Co. Wicklow, and of Ranelagh, near Dublin, 
and there are numerous poems by them to 
members of the family. 

fl. 1584. Dermot O'Cobhthaigh (O'Coffey), poet of 
the barony of Rathconrate, Co. Westmeath. 
Lament for the death of his kinsman Uaithne 


and his wife, who were murdered in 1556, and 
five religious poems. Another of the family, 
Murtough, wrote about the same time poems 
addressed to the Nugents, Lords of Delvin. 

The troubles that befel the great families of the 
O'Neills, Earls of Tj^rone, and O'Donnells, Lords of 
Tyrconnel, made the Northern bardic family of the Mac 
Wards especially active at this period. Chief among 
them are the following : 

fl 1587. Maelmuire mac an Bhaird (Ward) who wrote 
(1) an address to Red Hugh O'Donnell, 
encouraging him to bravely support his afflic- 
tions ; (2) to the same, remonstrating with 
him on having forsaken Mac Ward, who protests 
that he was always his faithful friend ; (3) on 
the deserted castle of Donegal after it had been 
dismantled by Red Hugh, for fear it should fall 
into the hands of the EngHsh. 

d. 1609. Eoghan Roe mac an Bhaird (Owen Ward 
the Red) flourished about the same time. He 
was head of his family and died at an advanced 
age. He wrote (1) an address to Red Hugh 
O'Donnell on his flight into Spain after the defeat 
of the Irish at Kinsale in 1602 ; (2) a warning 
to Rory O'Donnell on his placing himself in 
the hands of the Enghsh in DubHn ; (3) the 
celebrated address to Nuala weeping over the 
grave of her brother, Rory O'Donnell, Earl 
of Tyrconnel (1603-1608) at Rome. Rory was 
brother to Red Hugh, and succeeded him after 
his death in Spain in 1602 ; (4) Address to 
Niall Garbh (d. 1626) when confined in the 


Tower by King James in 1608, after the flight 
of the Earls, and other poems to members of 
the O'Donnell, O'Neill and Mac Sweeney 
families (pp. 165, 166). 
fl. 1600. Ferghal og Mac an Bhaird (Ferrall Ward) 
appears to have been still living when the Four 
Masters closed their annals in 1616. He wrote 
(1) Four poems in praise of the Maguires, Lords 
of Fermanagh ; (2) Poem in expectation of 
the descent by Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, from 
Italy upon Ireland ; (3) another on the death 
of O'Donnell in Spain ; another (4) urging 
Turlough Luineach O'Neill to claim the leader- 
ship of Ireland. Mac Ward seems to have 
either exiled himself voluntarily to Scotland 
for safety, or to have been exiled thither by 
others, for among his compositions are a poem 
beginning (5) "Sorrowful my journey to Alba" 
(Scotland) ; (6) a Benediction to Ireland and 
his friends there, written from that country, 
and (7) a lament on the people of Scotland 
renouncing the religion of their forefathers. 

Another family of Northern bards were the O'Husseys, 
chief poets and genealogists to the Maguires of Fer- 
managh. Prominent among these are : — 

d. 1614. Maelbrighde O'Heoghusa or O'Hussey. 
He entered the Franciscan Order and took the 
name of Bonaventura. He was born in Donegal, 
and after being for some time at Douay, he asked 
to be transferred to Louvain, which he entered 
as one of the original members on Nov. 1st, 
1607. He became lecturer in philosophy and 


theology at Louvain, and was Guardian of the 
College until his death by smallpox in 1614. 
Among his poems are one on entering the Order 
of St. Frances ; a translation into Irish of St. 
Bernard's Latin h3m:in " On the vanity of the 
world," and some personal poems to friends. 
He wrote also a catechism in prose and another 
in verse containing an abridgment of Christian 

fl. 1630. EocHADH O'HussEY was educated in Munster. 
He began to write at an early age, his earliest 
poem having been written in 1593 on the 
escape of Red Hugh O'Donnell from Dubhn 
Castle the year before. He was chief bard to 
the Maguires, and wrote four poems on Cuchon- 
nacht Maguire and seven on his son Hugh. He 
travelled much and wrote laudations on his 
hosts, besides addresses to Hugh O'Neill and 
Rory O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnel, and some 
poems on general subjects. He was a volumi- 
nous writer. O'Reilly mentions twenty-eight 
poems by him, many of them of great merit 
and beauty, and there are others extant un- 
known to him (pp. 172-174). 

d. before 1617. Tadhg Dall O'Higgin, born on the 
Southern borders of Ulster. His earliest poem 
was written before 1554. The most important of 
his poems urging the laying aside of old feuds 
and re-union of the Irish clans for the expulsion 
of the English were : (1) Address to Owen Oge 
Mac Sweeney ; (2) a plea for the fusion of the 
" Seed of Colla," i.e., the Maguires, O'Kellys and 
Mac Mahons under one head ; (3) Address to 


Turlough Luineach O'Neill; (4) to Sir Shane 
Mac William Burke, and (5) Richard mac 
Oliver Burke; (6) Warlike Ode to Sir Brian 
O'Rourke ; (7) to Aedh mac Manus O'Donnell. 
Poems for convivial occasions are : (8) In praise 
of the residence of Shane O'Neill ; (9) on a 
Christmas party (1577) at Turlough O'Neill's 
house, on the Bann ; (10) on a night at the house 
of Maelmora Mac Sweeney ; (11) on a visit 
to Cuchonnacht Oge Maguire. Other poems 
are : (12) laments for Cathal O'Conor Sligo, d. 
1587 ; (13) an earlier poem to More, Cathal's 
wife, to beg her to intercede for his restoration 
to his office as bard ; (14) poem lamenting a 
battle about to be fought in June, 1583, between 
Sir Hugh O'Donnell and- Turlough O'Neill, 
encamped on the R. Finn. He advises O'Don- 
nell to dismiss his clansmen and return home. 
(15) poem in praise of Lifford, Co. Donegal ; (16) 
satire on the six O'Haras. Tadhg with his 
wife and child were brutally murdered by 
the O'Haras some time before 1617 (pp. 176-180). 

Of the Fitzgerald family several attained a good 
position as poets. Chief among them were : — 

circa 1612. Maurice mac David Duff Fitzgerald. 
Two poems by him (1) on the degeneracy of 
his own times, and (2) an address to his ship 
on setting out for Spain, are very fine. There 
are a number of poems also on minor subjects, 
such as his verses on a French cat, two sets of 
verses giving advice, and verses giving thanks 
for gifts received by him. A spirited address 


to one of the Mac Carthys seems also to be from 
his hand. 

1709 (?) d. after 1791. Pierce Fitzgerald. A Cork poet 
and gentleman of good position. He was the 
fourth son in his family, but for some cause 
which is not quite clear, his father's inheritance 
was, in 1722, made over to him. Pierce 
married twice, and he seems to have eventually 
settled in Co. Waterford in the neighbourhood 
of his wife's relations. Most of his poems were 
composed between the years 1742-1775. His 
verses, which are visions, Jacobite songs, or 
poems on personal events, run pleasarttly and 
without effort. 

d. 1653 (?) Pierce Ferriter. A chieftain of Co. 
Kerry who took part in the rebellion of 1641, 
and besieged and took the Castle of Tralee in 
1642. He was the last Irish chieftain to hold 
out against the Cromwellian army. After the 
fall of Ross Castle, he was induced to come to 
Killarney to arrange terms of peace, but on 
his way back he was seized and brought a 
prisoner into Killarney, where he was' hanged 
about the year 1653. He was an accomplished 
scholar, poet and musician, a humane man and 
a brave soldier. He wrote in the older classical 
and elegiac metres. His poems are love songs, 
elegies and verses on current events. 

Of the family of O'Brody or O'Brodin two are worthy 
of special notice : — 

d. 1602. Maoilin mac Bruaidedh or O'Brodin. The 
O'Brodins were oUaves and bards of the 


O'Briens and allied families, such as the O'Gradys 
and O'Gormans, in Thomond. Maoilin was bom 
at Ballybrodin, Co. Clare. When the Northern 
chiefs raided Munster in 1599, O'Donnell carried 
off the cattle of the bard along with the stock 
of the neighbouring farmers, but he returned 
them on receiving a poetical epistle from the 
poet, claiming the exemption of literature from 
the laws of war. His poems are chiefly addressed 
to the heads of the families with which he was 
connected, and are historical compositions 
relating the history of their ancestors. 

d. 1652. Tadhg mac Daire mac Bkodin (b. 1570), who 
succeeded him in 1603 as poet of the O'Briens 
of Thomond. His poems were : — (1) Nine 
poems on the history and pretensions of Munster 
contributed to the " Contention of the Bards ; " 
(2) poems on the inauguration and death of 
the Fourth Earl of Thomond, and other verses 
addressed to the O'Briens ; (3) Religious verses. 
He lived on his own estate at the Castle of 
Dunogan, Co. Clare, and was killed by a Crom- 
wellian soldier, to whom the property was 
granted about the year 1652 (pp. 169-171). 

d. before 1632. Lugaidh O'Clery, chief bard of Tyr- 
connel. He took part in the " Contention of 
the Bards," defending the claims of the North 
of Ireland against Tadhg mac Daire mac Brodin. 
To this he contributed four poems. His chief 
work is his " Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell," 
written from his dictation by his sons (pp. 93-4.) 

d. 1664. CucoGRY or Peregrine O'Clery, son of 
Lugaidh, an industrious collector and transcriber 


of manuscripts. His autograph copy of his 
father's life of Red Hugh O'Donnell and of 
Michael's " Leabhar Gabhala " are in the R. I. 
Academy. He wrote poems addressed to two 
of the O'Donnell family. He assisted in the 
compilation of the Annals of the Four Masters 
(pp. 94-97). 
1575-1643. Michael O'Clery, fourth s. of Donnchad 
O'Clery, and third cousin to Lugaidh (above). 
Educated in the Franciscan Convent of Louvain. 
An industrious and learned collector of manu- 
scripts and compiler of Irish chronicles. His 
chief works are : — (1) Reim Rioghraidhe, or 
Royal List of the Succession of Kings of Ireland, 
1603; (2) Leabhar Gabhala, or "Book of 
Invasions," dedicated to Brian Maguire (1631) ; 

(3) Annales Dungallensis, called also Annala 
Rioghachta Eirenn, and Annals of the Four 
Masters in 1636 (pp. 104-114) ; (4) Martyrologium 
Sanctorum Hibernise, or Calendar of the Saints 
of Ireland (1636) ; a glossary of difficult Irish 
words (1643). O'Clery died at Louvain in 1643 
(pp. 97-103). 

1580-5 (?) 1660. Dugald mac Firbis, last of the ollaves 
of the O'Dowds of Co. Shgo, chronicler and 
genealogist. In 1645 he settled in Gal way 
as tutor to John Lynch and R. O'Flaherty. 
He transcribed many chronicles for Sir James 
Ware. His chief works and compilations are : — 

(1) Genealogies of the famiUes of Ireland, 1650 ; 

(2) A Treatise on Irish authors, 1656 (incom- 
plete) ; (3) Catalogue of extinct Irish Bishoprics ; 

(4) A collection of Irish glossaries, original 


and transcribed ; (5) A Martyrology in verse ; 
(6) Transcripts of the Chronicum Scotorum ; (7) 
Transcript of portions of Annals belonging to the 
Mac Egans of Ormonde, with copies and trans- 
lations of many other Annals. In the latter 
part of his life he was engaged in compiling a 
glossary of old Irish law-terms, but this is lost 
(see pp. 88-91). 

1629-30—1718. RoDERic O'Flaherty of Galway. 
Studied under the father of John Lynch and 
under D. Mac Firbis. His chief work is the' 
" Ogygia," a history of Ireland, written in 
Latin in 1685. He wrote also an " Ogygia 
Christiana," which is lost, and a description 
of West Connacht (see pp. 91-93). 

-fl. 1607. Teigue O'Keenan, companion of O'Neill and 
O'Donnell in their flight to Rome in 1607. He 
wrote a detailed account of their journey 
known as the " Flight of the Earls." O'Keenan 
was a member of the family who were hereditary 
bards of Maguire (pp. 129-130). 

b. about 1590-1660 (?). Philip O'Sullivan Beare, s. of 
Dermot O'Sullivan, and nephew of Donell 
O'Sullivan Beare, Lord of Dunboy (1560-1618). 
He was sent for refuge into Spain while still 
a lad, in 1602, where after the fall of Dunboy 
he was joined by his father and family. He 
became a soldier in the Spanish forces, but his 
predilection was for literature. His chief 
works are : — (1) Historiae Catholicae Ibernise 
Compendium, Lisbon (1621) ; (2) Patriciana 
Decas, a Ufe of St. Patrick (1629). He also 
wrote many Saints' lives, some of which he sent 


to the Bollandists in 1634. He entered into 
a heated controversy with Ussher, whose works 
he attacked. He has been identified by Webb 
with the Earl of Bearhaven who died at Madrid 
in 1659 or 1660, leaving one daughter, but 
this is uncertain (pp. 130-131). 

1575-1647 (?). Stephen White, native of Clonmel, and 
Jesuit. In 1606 he was appointed Professor of 
Scholastic Theology at Ingoldstadt, but returned 
to Spain in 1609. He became Rector of Cassel 
College, but was in Ireland from 1638-1640. He 
travelled much, and everywhere spent much 
labour in searching for and transcribing Irish 
MSS. in foreign libraries. To his researches is 
owing the re-discovery of a valuable copy of 
Adamnan's Life of St. Columcille in a chest 
in the town Ubrary at Schaffhausen in Switzer- 
land. Most of his transcripts he sent to Colgan 
and Ussher for their works on the ancient Church 
of Ireland. A letter to Colgan, dated Jan. 31st, 
1640, gives an account of his studies. He 
wrote an " Apologia pro Hibernia ad versus 
Cambri Calumnicis " in 1615. His other works 
are religious. 

1588-1657. Luke Wadding, Franciscan and priest. 
He went from Waterford, his native town, to 
Lisbon in 1604, and became President of the 
Irish College at Salamanca in 1617. In 1618 
he went to Rome and founded the College and 
Monastery of St. Isidore for the reception of 
Irish students, with four lecturers from Ireland. 
He died and is buried at the College, to 
which he presented 5,000 printed books and 


800 MSS. He was so much regarded at home 
for his devotion to the Irish cause and care of 
Irish exiles that the Confederate Catholics drew 
up a petition to Pope Urban VIII., desiring him 
to bestow upon the President of St. Isidore's 
a Cardinal's hat. Wadding, however, managed 
to intercept the petition, which never reached 
Rome. His voluminous works, published in 
thirty-six volumes, at Rome, Lyons, and 
Antwerp, are religious and ecclesiastical, 
d. 1657 (?). John Colgan was a native of Donegal, priest 
and Franciscan. He was one of the most 
famous of the learned band of men whose 
industry and talents were enlisted by the 
enthusiasm of Rev. Hugh Ward, or Aedh mac 
an Bhaird, Guardian of the Irish Minorite 
Convent at Louvain, in the service of their 
native land. Among the other labourers 
under the same auspices were Michael O'Clery, 
Fr. Luke Wadding, Fr. Stephen White, and 
Br. Patrick Fleming, who assisted each other 
in various ways by collecting and transcribing 
manuscripts and compiling their voluminous 
works. Colgan, though delicate in health, 
projected a vast collection of the lives of Irish 
Saints in six volumes, only two of which, the 
second and third, actually appeared. The 
first to be published was Volume III., con- 
taining the lives of Irish Saints from Jan. to 
March in the Calendar. It was pubhshed at 
Louvain in 1645. The second volume, which 
succeeded it, contains the lives of SS. Patrick, 
Columcille, and Brigit. It is known under 


the title " Trias Thaumaturga," and was 
published at Louvain in 1647. The first volume, 
which was to contain a general introduction, 
and the fourth and following volumes, which 
were to continue the Calendar of Saints for the 
rest of the year under the general title of " Acta 
Sanctorum veteris et majoris Scotiae sen 
Hiberniae," were not completed, though Wad- 
ding mentions in his bibliography of the Minorite 
writers, pubhshed in 1650, that the fourth 
volume was in the press. Fr. Colgan succeeded 
Fr. Hugh Ward as Professor of Theology in 
Louvain, but he retired from the office in 1645. 
He desired to publish the work under the 
name of his master and predecessor, to whom 
the original conception of the undertaking was 
due, but he was dissuaded from this. He 
published a small volume on Duns Scotus, 
maintaining his Irish origin, and some theo- 
logical lectures. He died at Louvain about 
the year 1657. 
1599 (?) 1673 (?). John Lynch was born in Galway, and 
he was probably son of Alexander Lynch of that 
town, whose fame as a schoolmaster attracted 
pupils even from the Pale. John was educated 
partly by D. mac Firbis and partly by the 
Jesuits. He became a secular priest about 
1622, and celebrated mass in private houses 
and secret places until the re-opening of the 
Catholic churches in 1642. He was Archdeacon 
of Tuam, but not, as generally stated, Bishop 
of Killala. He did not mix in politics, but lived 
secluded in the old castle of Ruadhri O'Conor, 


and for some time kept a school. On the 
surrender of Galway (1652) he fled to France, 
probably to Brittany, which allotted public 
support to Irish exiles. . Most of his works 
were published at St. Malo. He died abroad 
before 1674. His chief works are,: — (1) A 
translation into Latin of Keating's History ; 
(2) " Cambrensis Eversus," pubHshed under the 
name of " Gratianus Lucius," and dedicated 
to Charles IL This great work, though 
primarily intended to refute the statements 
of Giraldus Cambrensis, or Gerald of Wales, 
about Ireland, is designed on a large scale and 
embraces a great variety of well-digested infor- 
mation on every period of Irish history. Lynch 
was a strong Loyalist, and he wrote two treatises 
against Richard Farral, a Capuchin who had 
endeavoured to renew divisions between the 
native Irish and old Anglo-Irish settlers. 
1570-1646 (?). Geoffrey Keating, b. at Burgess, Co. 
Tipperary, and educated abroad. Returning to 
Ireland about 1610, he was appointed Curate of 
Tubrid. He was driven from his work and wan- 
dered about Ireland. He is buried at Tubrid. 
His chief works (all in Irish), are : — (1) Forus 
feasa ar Eirinn, or " History of Ireland" (1634) ; 
(2) Tri Bior-ghaethe an Bhais, or "Three 
Shafts of Death ; " (3) Eochair-sciath an Aifrinn, 
or " Defence of the Mass ; " (4) Short tract on 
the Rosary. He wrote a number of poems, 
some of which are addressed to friends or are 
laments on their deaths ; others are songs or are 
verses on the state of the country (pp. 133-142). 


1581-1656. James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh. 
Educated at Trin. Coll., Dub., of which founda- 
tion he was one of the earUest students. He 
afterwards became Fellow and Vice-Chancellor 
of the University (1614). He was successively 
Chancellor of St. Patrick's, Bishop of Meath 
(1621), and Primate. He was a fiery contro- 
versialist, but a man of profound learning. 
Seldon says he was " learned to a miracle." 
He took special interest in chronology and is 
responsible for the chronology attached to the 
Enghsh Bible of James I. (Authorized Version). 
His large library, purchased for £2,200, was 
deposited in T.C.D. His works, published in 
Dublin, 1847-64, in seventeen volumes, are 
mostly ecclesiastical and controversial. His 
chief contributions to Irish studies are : A 
Discourse of the Religion anciently professed 
by the Irish (1623) ; Veterum Epistolarum 
Hibemicarum Sylloge (1632), being a collection 
of ancient Irish Epistles and documents ; Britan- 
nicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates (1639) ; and 
a treatise on the ancient Irish Ecclesiastical 
terms " Corbes," " Erenachs," and " Termon 
Lands" (1609). 

1594-1666. Sir James Ware, eldest son of the Sir 
James Ware who went to Ireland as Secretary 
to Sir Wm. Fitzwilliam, Lord Deputy (1526- 
1599). He was educated in T.C.D. and succeeded 
his father as auditor-general. He had a troubled 
career, having been imprisoned in the Tower 
by the Parliamentarians, and after his return 
to Dublin given up as a hostage to the same 


party on the surrender of Dublin to their forces 
in 1647. He was again expelled by General 
M. Jones, Parhamentary Governor, and lived 
for some time in London and France, spending 
much of his leisure in public and private libraries 
collecting materials for his works relating to 
Ireland. At the Restoration he finally returned 
to his own house in Dublin and took up his 
old post as auditor-general. His interest in 
Irish history and antiquities had been fostered by 
Ussher, and he made a large collection of Irish 
charters and manuscripts, employing Mac Firbis 
to make transcripts of chronicles and documents 
in the Irish language, which he could not read. 
His chief works on Ireland are : (1) Archie- 
piscoporum Casseliensium et Tuamehsium Vitae, 
pubUshed (1626) ; (2) De Hibernia et Anti- 
quitatibus ejus Disquisitiones (1654) ; (3) De 
Scriptoribus Hibernise, dedicated to Strafford, 
(1639) ; (4) S. Patricio adscripta Opuscula (1646) ; 
Rerum Hibernicarum Annales, 1485-1558 (1664) ; 
De PrsesuUbus Hibernise Commentarus (1665). 
He also collected and pubHshed together the 
histories and chronicles of Campion, Hanmer, 
and Marlborough, and Spenser's "View of the 
State of Ireland." To his influence is largely 
due the recognition of Irish history as a subject 
of general interest, 
fl. 1620. Patrick Hackett, native of S. Tipperary. He 
spent a good deal of his early hfe on the Continent, 
and was a prot6ge of Edmund Butler, lord of Hy 
Currin. Poems, many in praise of his patrons : (1) 
A beautiful panegyric of Ireland, written on the 


Continent ; (2) Calling on the people of Ireland 
to take up arms, 1645 ; (3) On d. of Richard 
Butler, of Dunboyne ; (4) On the dispersion 
of the Irish nobility by Cromwell. Like Keating 
and O'Bruadair, he was master of both old and 
modern metres, 
fl. 1600. John mac Walter Walsh, s. of the chief of 
the sept of " Walsh of the Mountains," in Co. 
Kilkenny. Wrote an affecting elegy on the 
d. of Oliver Grace, the youthful heir of the 
baronial house of Courtstown, Kilkenny, in 1604, 
and many other poems which have not been 
fl. 1670. Father Donall O'Colman, wrote a well- 
known religious piece called " The Parliament 
of Women," on the abandoning of vices and 
practising of virtues. 
1650-1694 (?). O'Bruadair, David, b. in Limerick or 
Co. Cork. The chronological order of the more 
important of his poems is : (1) Epithalamium 
in prose and verse on the marriage of Oliver 
Stephen, of Co. Cork, to Eleanora Bourke, of Co. 
Limerick, 1674 ; (2) Pohtical poem on the ills of 
Ireland from 1641-84 ; (3) Advice to a trooper, 
1686 ; (4) Triumphs of the second King James, 
1686 ; (5) In praise of James II., and dispraise of 
WiUiam III., 1688 ; (6) On Sarsfield's destruc- 
tion of the siege-train at Balhneety, 1690 ; 
(7) " Ireland's Hurly-burly," 1691 ; (8) On the 
exile of the native gentry, and (9) on those who 
became Protestants after the Siege of Limerick ; 
(10) Lament for the loss of his old patrons, 
1692 ; (11) Epithalamium on the m. of Dominic 


Roche and Una Bourke, of Cahirmoyle. (See 
pp. 195-197). 

d. after 1718. John O'Neachtan, a learned man and 
good poet. Born in Meath. Among his poems 
are an elegy on the death of Mary D'Este, 
widow of James II. ; " Maggie Laidir," a 
convivial piece ; " Battle of St. Bridget's Gap," 
a humorous piece. He wrote numerous other 
songs and elegies, besides translations of Latin 
verses into Irish. Among his prose pieces are 
an extravaganza called " The Strong-armed 
Wrestler," and "The History of Edmond 
O'Clery." Many of his poems are addressed 
to priests imprisoned for their reUgion (pp. 
218, 219). 

d. after 1750. Teige O'Neachtan. He compiled an 
Irish-EngUsh Dictionary between the years 
1734-39, and some fragmentary prose pieces. 
Twenty-five poems are mentioned by O'Reilly. 

fl. 1700. Egan O'Rahilly. Dates of birth and death 
unknown, but most of his poems were produced 
between the years 1694-1734. Lived in the 
neighbourhood of Killarney. A voluminous 
writer. Among his more important poems are : 
{a) Visions and poems on the woes of Ireland 
(1) The Wounds of the Land of Fodla ; (2) The 
Ruin that befell the great families of Erin ; 
(3) The Merchant's Son; (4) Brightness of 
Brightness ; (5) An Illusive Vision : (6) The 
Assembly of Munstermen ; (6) Personal Poems 
(7) On his removal to Duibhneacha ; (8) On 
a pair of shoes presented to him ; (9) Poem 
written on his deathbed; (c) Elegies and 


poems to friends (10) Valentine Brown ; 
(11) On the death of Tadhg O'Cronin's three 
children ; (12) On John Brown ; (13) On 
Diarmuid O'Leary ; (14) Epithalamium for Lord 
Kenmare ; (d) Satires and political pieces 
(15) Adventures of Clan Thomas ; (16) Parlia- 
ment of Clan Thomas ; (17) Adventures of 
Tadhg Dubh, etc. (pp. 197-200). 

fl. 1700. Geoffrey O'Donoghue, of Glenfiask, Co. 
Kerry, belonged to the same or a slightly earlier 
period. Wrote chiefly in the old ddn direach 
and in the elegiac metres. An accomplished and 
dignified poet, but wanting in movement and 
feehng. His poems are elegies, laments, and 
verses in praise of Glenfiask. A Ughter poem is 
a lament addressed to his spaniel, kiUed in 
hunting a mouse. 

1670-1738. TuRLOUGH Carolan, b. at Newtown, Co. 
Meath. Song-writer and composer. His songs 
are principally odes to women and to his friends 
and patrons (pp. 214-218). Among his friends 
and contemporaries were : Cahir mac Cdbe, 
harper and song-writer, who wrote an elegy on 
Cardan's death in 1738 ; James Dall mac Cuarta, 
of Louth, a proUfic song-writer : his pieces are 
love-songs, reUgious poems and dialogues ; 
Patrick mac Alindon, writer of love-songs 
and satirical pieces ; Peter O'Durnan, of 
Meath, who also wrote satirical and amatory 

d. 1740 (?). Andrew M'Curtin, a poet of Clare, com- 
posed a poetic address to a fairy, Donn of the 
Sandpits, asking him to take him into his service. 


as he has been neglected by the gentry of the 
country. Among his poems are a Jacobite song, 
an elegy on the d. of Sir Donagh O'Brien (1717), 
and an address to Sorley mac Donnell, 
complaining of the difficulty of composing in 
the new metres (pp. 211, 212). 

d. after 1750. Hugh M'Curtin, author of an English- 
Irish Dictionary, published in Paris, 1732, and 
of an Irish Grammar published at Louvain, 
1728 ; a native of Co. Clare. He composed 
several elegies. He seems to have been im- 
prisoned for some cause unknown during part 
of his life (pp. 212, 213). 

1688 (?) d. 1760. Michael Comyn, b. at Kilcorcoran 
in Co. Clare. In 1750 he produced his Ossianic 
poem Laoi Oisin ar Thir na n-Og, or " The Lay 
of Oisin in the Land of Youth." Besides some 
minor poems, he wrote two prose tales, the 
" Adventures of Turlough, s. of Starn," and 
" The Adventures of Turlough's Three Sons." 

Among the poets and bards who took part in the 
bardic sessions at Blarney are : 

1668-1724. William mac Curtain, called Wilham of 
Doon, though of an Ulster family. He served 
through the Williamite war in one of King 
James' cavalry regiments. After the war he 
settled down at Carrignavar, where he taught a 
school, transcribed books, and wrote poetry. He 
became chief of the bardic school on the death 
of Dermot, s. of John Boy mac Carthy, in 1705. 
The bardic school was moved after William 
Doon's death, in 1724, from Blarney to White- 


church. He was a close friend of Bishop mac 
Sleyne, of Cork, who was banished over seas, 
and wrote many poems to him in terms of 
affectionate lament. Others of his poems are 
on the depressed condition of the native gentry. 
A vigorous poem praises the courage of Sir 
James Cotter, an Irishman who had shot Lyle, 
one of the regicides of Charles I., who had 
taken refuge abroad. 

fl. 1760. Edmond Wall, of Dungourney, Co. Cork, was 
also a member of the bardic sessions at White- 
church and Carrignavar. He wrote a lament 
on the death of William Cotter, who was chief 
of the school between 1724 and 1738, and other 

1656-1726. Father Owen O'Keefe, b. at Glenville, 
Co. Cork ; he married early and had a son. 
Art, who died in a seminary at Rochelle in 1709, 
and on whom he wrote a beautiful elegy. His 
wife died in 1707, and he then took holy orders 
and died parish priest of Doneraile. Among 
his other pieces are a poem written after the 
Battle of Aughrim, 1692 ; and one of the many 
poems composed in sympathy with John mac 
Sleyne, Bishop of Cork, who was driven across 
to the Continent in a small boat in 1703, and 
took refuge in Lisbon, where he died. 

1700-1762. John Murphy (S^an O'Murchadha na 
Raithineach), was born in Carrignavar, five 
miles N.E. of Cork, and lived in the same 
neighbourhood. He exercised the professions 
of schoolmaster and scribe, but acted for a 
short time as bailiff to Donnall Spaineach mac 


Carthy. He succeeded William Cotter, of Castle- 
lyons, as President of the bardic sessions of 
Blarney in 1738, and remained leader till the 
year of his death. He was a cheerful, kindly 
man, fluent of speech, and wrote simply and 
naturally in the modern metres. Most of his 
verses are written to friends, or are laments on 
the death of the priests and fellow-bards whom 
he met at the bardic sessions or who were 
personally known to him. 

Sl. 1700. DoNNCHADH Caoch O'Mahony, the Reachtaire 
or Registrar of the Bardic Court at Blarney. 
Poems, many satirical : (1) On the Earl of 
Mar's Insurrection, 1709 ; (2) In praise of the 
Irish Language ; (3) In praise of the harper, 
Donn O'Falvey ; (4) In praise of Father Donogh 
M'Carthy, Bishop of Cork. He spent the 
greater portion of his life in the City of Cork. 

fi. 1769. Fr. John O'Brien, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne 
and Ross. Published at Paris, 1769 (?) an 
Irish-English Dictionary. Author of a number 
of poems ; some unpublished sketches on Irish 
History, Literature and Prosody. 

fl. 1738. William Cotter, a tailor-poet of Castle 
Lehane, Co. Cork. Another of the same name, 
Thomas Cotter, wrote the famous Jacobite song, 
" Leather away with the wattle, O ! " 

1682-1768. Peter O'Dornin, of Cashel, wrote a long 
poem on the ancient divisions of Ireland, and 
other pieces. He spent most of his life as a 
schoolmaster in Forkhill, Co. Armagh. 

(fi. ?). Henry mac Auliffe wrote Jacobite songs, 
addressed to Prince Charlie. 


(fl. ?). John O'Connell. Popular poem on the history 
of Ireland called " Ireland's Elegy." 

1691-1754. John Claragh mac Donnell, b. near Rath 
Lure, Co. Cork. Jacobite poet, writer of songs 
and elegies, and visions. He was chief of the 
bardic sessions at Charleville. Among his best 
elegies are one on Sir James Cotter, who was 
hanged in 1720 for his adherence to the Jacobite 
cause, and one on James O'Donnell, murdered 
near Ardpatrick, Co. Limerick. Among his pieces 
on foreign topics are a poem on the European 
war of 1740-48. His two most virulent satires 
are those on the death of Philip Duke of Orleans, 
in 1723, and on the death of Colonel Dawson 
of Aherlow. He was chief poet of Munster 
in his day, and was a man of greater learning 
than most of his fellows (pp. 200-203). 

1706-1775. John Tuomy succeeded Mac Donnell as 
chief bard of the district of the Maigue in Co. 
Limerick. He kept an inn at Croom where the 
bards of N. Munster assembled for poetical 
contests. Later in Ufe he moved to Limerick. 
His compositions resemble those of John 
Claragh in their ease and gaiety, and their 
authorship has frequently been mistaken. His 
subjects are similar ; poems to Ireland, to the 
Stuarts, and to friends, drinking and convivial 
songs, and poetical disputes or conversations 
carried on with different bards (pp. 206, 207). 

fl. 1750. William Heffernan, called Dall " the Blind," 
a native of Shronehill, Co. Tipperary. Con- 
temporary with Tuomy and Mac Donnell, with 
whom he often contended in the bardic sessions. 


Among his poems are, CLiot)nA ma CAfitAige, 
CAictin m tlAttdCAin, 'be n-eit^inn i, tlAitt-gut 
An Aoietnf, all beautiful and popular songs. He 
was of old and respectable family, and lived 
till near the beginning of the eighteenth century. 

d. after 1790. Andrew Magrath, called " An Mangaire 
Siigach " or the Jolly Pedlar. A contemporary 
Munster bard with Tuomy. Born in Limerick. 
His poems are satirical, amatory, bacchanalian 
and political. His love-songs are fuU of pathos, 
and usually free from loose expressions, but he 
lived a wild and irregular life. His wit was keen 
and his satire dreaded. Among his sweetest 
poems is his " Farewell to the Maigue," and his 
spirited " Song of Freedom." His " Lament " 
was written when, after being expelled from 
the Catholic Church, he was also refused admit- 
tance into the Protestant Communion (pp. 207- 

1748 (?) 1784. Owen Roe O'Sullivan, b. at Meen- 
togues, near Killarney. Of a wild and restless 
disposition. His songs are aislingi, satires, 
elegies and reUgious verses (pp. 203-205). 

d. 1795. Tadhg Gaedhealach O'Sullivan, a popular 
and sweet writer of religious verse. He lived 
chiefly near Youghal and in Co. Waterford. His 
youth was spent in gaiety, but in middle life 
he devoted himself to religious exercises, 
attaching himself to a confraternity at Dun- 
garvan, and leading a life of penance and piety. 
Six editions of his religious poems were published 
before 1822, under the title of "The Pious 
Miscellany. ' ' His early verse consisted chiefly of 


love-songs. He was probably called "^AeteAiAC 
from his rustic manners or purely Irish speech 
(pp. 209-211). 
d. 1778. Father William English, b. in Limerick, 
and took the habit of an Augustinian friar as 
one of the community in Cork in 1749. He 
had to renounce song- writing on taking holy 
orders. Among his songs are " Ati feAri-TiMitie 
SeoifVfe," " C/Mfiot XWurhAn," and " Coif nA 
t)iM'5T)e." A political song headed " Father W. 
. English's loud lamentation after his shoes, 
stolen by some nimble-handed thief," brought 
forth two replies from Edward Nagle, a tailor 
poet of Cork, who composed some pieces with 
Tadhg Gaedhealach in 1756. One piece, "The 
Friar's Butter," was written by Fr. English 
later in Ufe. He was a wit and humorist as 
well as a poet. 

Among the wandering bards who frequently com- 
posed airs as well as songs, and who Uved on the alms 
of those whose tables they enlivened by their singing 
and recitation of old tales, we may mention Cormac 
Common, called Cormac Dall, b. in 1703 at Woodstock, 
Co. Mayo. In infancy small-pox deprived him of his 
sight, and Walker tells us that in his old age he had 
frequently found him going about the country led by a 
grandchild. He was an uneducated man, but he played 
the harp and sang the native airs. He also chanted 
Ossianic Poems, and was known as a professional story- 
teller. His best long poem is an elegy on the death 
of John Bourke, of Carntryle (d. 1746). 

d. 1808. Brian Merriman. A Clare poet and school- 



master. His chief poem is the long satire 
" The Midnight Court," C«ii\c An ri\eAf)om oi'dte, 
composed in 1780, which runs to 1070 lines 
in some copies. He died in Limerick in 1808 
(pp. 150-152). 

d. 1814. DoNOGH MAC Con Mara or Macnamara, 
native of Cratloe, Co. Clare, but spent most 
of his life in the Counties of Waterford and Cork. 
It is said that he was destined for the priesthood, 
but he was dismissed from his college. He led a 
wild life, occasionally supporting himself by 
school-teaching. In 1745 he embarked for New- 
foundland, but the vessel was driven on the coast 
of France, where it fell in with a French frigate 
and was forced to return to Ireland. He, how- 
ever, went there at a later date. He made three 
voyages across the Atlantic, and kept a school 
at Hamburg. His chief poem is eACcf a $iottA 
An AmA\^i.m or the " Adventures of a Luckless 
Fellow," called the Mock ^Eneid, founded on 
his adventures ; he wrote also " t)ATi-(iiioic 
6it\eAnti 615 ! " humorous pieces, partly in Irish 
and partly in English, and political songs and 
verses on his own life. He composed a Latin 
elegy on the d. of Tadhg Gaedhealach O'SuUivan. 
He became blind in his old age (pp. 147-150). 

b. 1754 (?) d. 1816. John Collins, a schoolmaster in 
Skibbereen, Co. Cork. His best poem is the 
beautiful " Soliloquy on the Ruins of Timo- 
league Abbey," in S. Munster, but there are 
minor pieces by his hand, including an Irish 
translation of Campbell's " Exile of Erin." 
He belonged to the Irish sept of the O'CuUanes, 


formerly Lords of Castlelyons. He had a good 
education, and his poems show that he was a 
man of refined and cultivated mind. 

1784 (?) 1835. Anthony Raftery (Antoine O Reach- 
tliire), b. at Killeadan, Co. Mayo, and spent 
most of his Ufe near Gort, Co. Galway. He 
lost his sight in childhood through an attack 
of small-pox. Poems : (1) On the drowning of 
Annach Doon; (2) Laments on Thomas O'Daly^ 
and two to WilUam O' Kelly ; (3) PoUtical : The 
CathoUc Rent, and two on The Whiteboys ; 
O'Connell's Victory ; (4) Historical : The 
Bush ; (5) Religious : The Cholera Morbus ; 
(6) To Women : The Wife of the Red-haired Man, 
Nancy Walsh, Breedyeen Vesey, Peggy Mitchell, 
Mary Staunton, Mary Hynes, etc. ; (7) Drinking- 
songs : In praise of Whiskey, Dispute with 
Whiskey, etc. (pp. 231-233). 

1776-1857. Patrick Condon, a Cork poet who emigrated 
to N. America, where he died. He wrote a great 
number of pieces in Irish, the only language 
which he spoke or understood. 

A Text Book of Irish Literature 

The Fenian Tales. 

Tradition tells that in the ancient fortress called the 
Grianan of Aileach, in Donegal, there sit for ever a 
thousand armed men resting in a magic sleep, their 
right hands laid upon their swords. There they will 
sit until the time shall come when they shall be called 
forth to take their part in the struggle for Erin's freedom. 
From time to time they stir themselves in their sleep, 
and the hollow chambers of the Grianan echo with the 
words, " Is the time yet come ? " and the resounding 
answer is borne back again, " The time is not as yet." 
And so the heroes sink again to sleep. 

In Uke manner the Scot of Inverness holds fast to 
the behef that close at hand, in a boat-shaped mound 
called Tom na Hurich, Finn mac Cool and his followers 
are couched, each one reposing on his left elbow and 
enjoying unbroken sleep until the time of their 
awakening. A stranger entering their abode once 
chanced to strike an iron chain suspended from the 
roof, whereupon these ancient Fians rose upon their 
elbows and their great dogs began to bark. 

So the Briton dreamed of Arthur, who " passed but 


could not die ; " so the Teuton thought of Barbarossa 
and the Spaniard of the Cid Rodrigo ; so even yet it 
is told in Ireland that the O'Donoghue sleeps to wake 
again beneath the waters of Killarney. 

No nation in whom the gift of imagination is yet alive 
ever wholly loses its heroes of the past. They never 
really die. From hill and slope and valley they call 
back the modern world to the dreams of the nation's 
childhood, when life seemed large and simple, and men 
were valorous and hospitable and kind ; when 

" We, the Fianna, never told a lie, 
Falsehood to us was never known; 
But by truth and the might of our arms 
We came unhurt from the conflict." 

It was a happy inspiration which made Oisin, son 
of Fionn, warrior and poet, live into the times of St. 
Patrick, and bridge over in his own person the gap 
between the old world and the new ; no change from 
Paganism to Christianity, no passage of events from 
the ancient to the modern world, has sufficed to stamp 
out the memories of Fionn and his compeers. In 
isolated places spots are shown called The Cooking- 
places or Kitchens of the Fianna {Fulachta-na-Fiann) 
and cromlechs, still called the " Beds of Diarmuid and 
Grainne " [Leapthacha Dhiamada agus Ghrainne), recall 
the ancient love-tale of the wandering and hunted 
lovers ; Ben Gulbans in Sligo, and other mountains of 
the same name in Scotland, vie with each other in 
claiming to be the classic ground where the hunt of 
the wild magic boar brought Diarmuid to his death ; and 
among a peasantry whose historic memories of actual 
events are vague and dim, the deeds of Fionn and Oscar 


are clearly known and " Oisin after the Fianna " is yet 
alive to-day. 

Historic Tradition. — It will be convenient at the 
outset of our inquiry into the origin and growth of 
the Ossianic or Fenian Literature to give the commonly 
received semi-historic account of Fionn and his followers. 
Fionn is supposed to have lived in the third century, 
and to have been leader of a band of professional soldiers 
called "Fianna,"* who seem to have been independent 
of the monarchy of Tara and to have lived exclusively 
for war and hunting. Fionn was leader of the Fianna 
of Leinster or Clann Baeiscne. He was son of Cumhall^ 
who had been leader of the Leinster warriors before him, 
and his chief opponent was Aedh or lollann, later called 
Goll mac Morna, head of the Connacht Fianna. In the 
two chief battles waged by the Leinster troops, the Battle 
of Cnucha or Castleknock (now Rathcoole, near Dublin), 
and the Battle of Gabhra, or Gaura, we find the Clann 
Baeiscne arrayed against the central monarchy of Tara, 
which was supported by the Clann Morna of Connacht. 
The feud with the High Monarchy is said to have been 
caused by the creation of Crimthann of the Yellow Hair 
as King of Leinster, to the exclusion of the race of 

* The separate warriors were called fSinnid or fiann, and the 
whole band fianna. The word fHnnid is very old, and is used 
even in tales of the Cuchulain Saga to denote a professional 
warrior moving about the country with an armed band. Cf. 
Togail Bruidne Da Derga, Ed. Stokes, sees. 141, 144, etc., and 
Compert Concobair, Ed. Hennessy, Rev. Celt, vi., pp. 90-2. The 
word is not used in the annals to describe any contemporary 
institution. It was revived in modern times by John O'Mahony 
to designate the political body which he called the " Fenians." 
The word Fian, fianna, or feinne has nothing to do with the 
name of Fionn. 


Cathair Mor, whom Conn of the Hundred Battles had 
slain in the year 122 A.D. and whose cause was espoused 
by Cumhall and the Clann Baeiscne. Cumhall fell 
in the Battle of Cnucha by the hand of Goll mac Moma, 
and the feud with Tara continued during the reign of 
Cormac mac Airt, who came to the throne in 227 a.d., 
and that of his son, Cairbre, who was killed in the Battle 
of Gaura, in which Oscar, Fionn's grandson, also fell. 

Fionn's death is usually placed in the years 252 or 
283 (Annals of the Four Masters, 286 A.D.). He is said 
to have fallen at Ath Brea on the Boinn (Boyne), by 
the darts or fishing gaffs of Aichlech, son of Duibh- 
renn, one of the sons of that Uirgrenn of the Luaighni 
of Tara, who had in former days disputed the high- 
stewardship of Erin with Cumhall and brought about 
the Battle of Cnucha.* 

His most famous son was Oisi'n, called in Scotland 
Ossian, father of Oscar, to whom in later days many 
ballads of the Fianna were attributed. Fionn's chief 
abode was at Almhain (now the Hill of Allen, in Co. 
Kildare), or at Magh-Elle (now Moyelly, in King's 
County). His wooing of Grainne, daughter of his 
enemy, Cormac, High King of Tara, and her flight with 
Diarmuid, is the theme of one of the longest tales of 
the cycle. He eventually brought about the death 
of his rival and married Grainne in his old age. 

The poems and prose pieces give brilliant accounts 
of the glories of Almhain and of the strength of the 
Fenian forces and the hospitaUty and courage of their 
leaders. Lists of his chief warriors and of the hounds 
belonging to Fionn are also given. 

* See " The Boyish Exploits of Fionn," which gives the 
original account of this battle. 


Foundation of the Fianna.— More important still 
is the account given by Caeilte, one of the chief leaders, 
of the origin and early history of the Fianna, and of 
the captains who held command over them. 

According to this tradition, they were apparently 
already organised in the reign of a king of Ireland 
named Feradach fechtnach (reigned a.d. 15-36), one of 
whose two sons preferred to cast in his lot with the 
Fianna, who seem to have been regarded as outlaws, and 
" to inherit the rivers, wastes and wilds and woods and 
precipices and estuaries " of Erin, while the other son 
assumed the monarchy and entered into possession of 
the forts, the houses and temporal wealth pertaining 
to the kingdom. On the death of his elder brother, 
Fiacha, the second son, who had hitherto followed the 
life of a Fian chief, became King of Tara, and he com- 
mitted the charge of the Fianna troops to Morna of 
Connacht. Four of this tribe succeeded, and then, 
after thirty-two years of Connacht leadership, the High 
Chieftaincy passed to Ulster for a short period. Two 
Munster chiefs, " sons of plebeian men of Ara," 
succeeded, " in reward of guileful arts," and then came 
Tr^nmhor ua Baeiscne, the grandfather of Fionn, who 
won so great affection among the troops that the whole 
of the Fianna of Ireland united themselves under his 
command. For seventeen years he held together the 
hosts of North and South. Cumhall succeeded him, 
and fought thirty battles before he fell at Cnucha. 
After him, for ten years, Goll Mor mac Morna held the 
command, until it was wrested from him by " The 
Golden Salmon, Fionn, son of Cumhall, son of Tr^n- 
mhor," who, according to this account, lived " two 
hundred years in flourishing condition and thirty more 


free of debility," before he took " the leap of his old 
age." * 

Conditions of Enrolment. — In Fionn's time the 
strength of the Fianna was said to be a hundred and 
fifty officers, each man of whom commanded twenty- 
seven warriors, who were bound to the special conditions 
of service laid upon all troops in the Fianna. These 
were (1) That they should be satisfied with no ordinary 
' eric ' or recompense if their guarantee was violated ; 
(2) that they should not deny to any wealth or food ; 
and (3) that no one of them should turn his back or 
fly even if attacked by nine warriors at once. They 
were also bound never to receive a portion with a wife, 
but to choose her for good manners and virtue alone, 
and never to hurt or distress any woman. A Fenian 
was not permitted to be avenged by his relations in 
the event of his death by murder or treachery, as any 
ordinary clansman would have been ; he seems indeed 
to have been cut off from all connection with his family 
and clan from the moment he entered the forces of 
the Fians and to have been bound by no tribal laws 
or obligations. This did not prevent bitter and almost 
interminable blood feuds between the different divisions 
of the Fenian forces themselves, such as that between 
the Clann Morna and Clann Baeiscne after the Battle of 
Cnucha, but these were entirely apart from tribal disputes. 

* The Colloquy, Silva Gadelica ii., pp. 165-166. According 
to some accounts Fionn, when quite old, and in order to test 
his strength, attempted to leap across the Boyne at a spot which 
bore the name of LHm Finn or " Fionn's Leap.'" He fell, and 
was dashed between two rocks. It was there that the fishermen 
dragged up his body with gaffs and cut off his head. 


As the tribe was not called upon to revenge an injury 
or murder committed on a warrior of the^Fians, neither 
could it exact any punishment or 'Eric' from the 
Fians no matter what injury they might inflict on the 
tribe. The clansmen were at the mercy of these troops, 
whose exactions, waxing greater as their power and 
irresponsibihty increased, finally brought about their 
downfall. Among their demands (which were enforced 
by the whole strength of their arms), was one that 
permitted no woman to be given in marriage to any 
man in Ireland until she had been offered to and refused 
by the Fenians. Cairbre, King of Ireland, had a fair 
daughter named Sgeimh-sholais, " Light of Beauty." 
She was wooed by the King of the Decies, with the 
consent of her father. The Fenians interfered, 
demanding the princess for one of themselves, or, in 
the event of refusal, a ransom of twenty ungas of gold 
for her. Cairbre was so enraged that he determined 
once and for all to lower their pride and, if possible, 
to extirpate the entire force. The armies met at 
Gabhra, or Gaura (Gowran, in Kilkenny ?) about the 
year 283 a.d>,* and a furious battle, the theme of many 
ballads and prose pieces, was fought. In it Cairbre 
was slain, but the Fenian losses were so severe that the 
troops never recovered their former position. Oscar, 
son of Oisin, a grandson of Fionn, one of the bravest 
leaders of the Fians, fell in this battle. 

The conditions under which a young aspirant might 
gain admission to the Fianship were exacting. Tests 
of all kinds were applied to him to prove his mental 
and physical fitness. He must have passed through 

* O'Flaherty gives 296 a.d. 


the whole scholastic training required of a man of 
learning and be versed in the twelve divisions of poetry. 
He must be so light and fleet of foot that he could 
escape from a body of men pursuing and seeking to 
wound him, not only without being injured but without 
breaking a dry twig as he ran, or ruffling a braid of 
his plaited hair ; he must be able to extract a thorn 
from his foot when running at full speed ; he must 
defend himself from a hole in the ground with only 
a shield and hazel-stick against nine warriors letting 
fly at him their nine spears simultaneously. 

These feats of courage and skill, possibly exaggerated 
in the accounts for dramatic effect, may quite probably 
recall ancient initiation ceremonies such as are common 
among many primitive nations for young men 
approaching manhood, who are then deemed to be old 
enough to take their place among the elders of the 
tribe as warriors or counsellors. Among such races 
youths are seldom admitted into the full companionship 
of the older men or the full privileges of the tribe without 
previous tests or reUgious ceremonies which mark their 
complete development and emancipation from childhood. 

Characteristics of the Fenian Legends. 

The Ulster period of literary activity, with which a 
large part of our first volume was concerned, closed 
about the twelfth or the thirteenth century. Though 
the tales of the Ulster cycle continued to be copied 
and repeated long after this period, few new tales were 
added, and they became in a far less degree than the 
cycle of tales relating to the early gods or to that 
relating to Fionn and his companions the foundation 
of the country's folklore. The tales of the Champions 
of the Red Branch continued to form the chief portion 
of the repertoire of an accomplished professional story- 
teller, and the chief delight of princes and chiefs at 
feasts, but upon the people at large they took no very 
strong hold. The single combats, the chariot-riding, 
the great barbarian feasts, belonged to a system of 
things too far apart from the life of the people, too 
archaic, and too aristocratic to appeal to them as a 
native expression of sentiment. 

The fierce barbarisms and the splendid chivalries of 
the Ulster heroes alike unfitted them to take their place 
as the companions of the people's thought ; they 
represented the ideas and manners of a free aristocracy 
set in the framework of an archaic age, and they in no 
way represented the interests of the folk at large. 

Comparison with the Ulster Cycle. — To fill this 
want another cycle, the Fenian or Ossianic cycle, 
sprang up among the people themselves. It bears 
the marks of the folk-element strong upon it, and it 


remains to this day the best expression of the folk- 
belief of the Gaelic-speaking peoples both of Ireland 
and the Western Highlands of Scotland, and their 
favourite imaginative food. 

Although the Fenian tales appear to have had their 
origin quite as early as those of the Ulster cycle, for 
we find allusions to them and fragments of stories 
in the oldest manuscripts we possess, the Leabhar 
na h-Uidhre and the Book of Leinster, they represent 
a totally different order of ideas and of society, as well 
as a totally different method of expression and literary 
form. Indeed the conditions of life to which they 
bear witness are so unlike those which we meet in the 
stories of the Northern cycle that it is difficult to 
conceive of them as having arisen at a similar epoch 
or among the same people. 

Of cattle-lifting raids or Tains, which formed the 
subject of a large part of the Ulster romance, we hear 
nothing at all ; though cattle-lifting went on in Ireland 
for centuries, it was the occupation of chiefs and large 
owners, not of the poorer classes, and it did not occupy 
the minds of the tale-tellers of the Os'sianic legends. 
The splendid march of the Milesian freemen, swinging 
into battle clan by clan, the nobly-attired heroes flinging 
up the sod with the on-rush of their double-horsed 
chariots, the challenges to single combat at the ford, 
the primitive ferocity which obliged an instant attack 
upon any warrior belonging to another province, or 
which showed itself in the carrying of the skulls of 
slaughtered enemies at the belt, all this is gone by. 

Warfare. — ^The popular tale has another complexion. 
The Fenian leader is not the chief of a provincial tribe 


or sept ; he is the officer of men who own no stake in 
the country save that which a soldier quartered on a 
district he is engaged to defend might be supposed to 
feel towards the inhabitants among whom his lot is 
thrown, but from whose interests he is otherwise 
detached. Fighting is no longer the challenge of 
champion with champion, or a test of personal courage, 
nor is it the pursuit of war waged in defence of provincial 
territories ; it is either the struggle for mastery between 
two opposing bands of trained and disciplined warriors, 
as in the Battles of Cnucha or Gaura, or, in the later 
tales, it is the defence of the shores of Ireland against 
a foreign over-sea invader, as in the Battle of Ventry. 

The Chase. — Bloodshedding, either for defence or 
for personal glory, is no longer the dominant note 
of the legends, it sinks into a secondary place ; and 
the chief position of importance is assigned to the 
more peaceful pursuits of venery and the chase. There 
are a far larger number of Fenian tales of the hunt of 
stags and deer than there are accounts of battles. The 
horn of the chase has succeeded to the war-cry, and 
the hound has taken the place of the chariot-horse. 
In the Ulster tales the hound seems to have been only 
used for warfare or for defence. We hear of the dead 
bodies of battle-hounds lying heaped together with 
those of men and horses after a scene of carnage, and 
we hear of hounds being used to guard a dwelhng. 
Such was the ferocious mastiff " brought out of Spain,"* 
which guarded the fort of Culann the smith, and from 

* C6ir Anmann, sec. 266 ; a gloss in L. U. version of the 
Tdin bd Cualnge, says that the hound came from over-seas, 
facs. 606. 


the destruction of which Cuchulain, " The Hound of 
Culann," got his name. Among the Ulster heroes the 
chase was looked down upon as a trivial and ignominious 
pursuit. Cii himself indignantly refuses to be thought 
of as a peaceful hound of the chase, and contends that 
he. is in truth one of the " dogs of war " let loose upon 
his enemies. He says of himself : 

" I was not a hound for the coursing of a deer, 
I was a hound strong for combat ; 
I was not a cur licking up broken bits, 
I was a hound who dwelt among the troops ; 
I was not a watch-dog left to herd the calves ; 
I was a hound guarding Emain Macha." 

But in the Fenian tales the chase attains a new 
dignity. The greatest leaders awaken morning after 
morning to the cheerful bugle-call, rejoicing in the 
vigorous and peaceful pursuit to which the day has 
called them. 

The baying of the hounds is to Fionn the most attrac- 
tive of all the sounds of nature, and his large pack of 
dogs, all bearing individual names, and, we might 
almost say, individual characters, are his beloved friends 
and constant companions. The interest shown in dogs 
in this group of tales is very remarkable. The horse 
is used for racing, but as a means of warfare it has 
completely dropped out, for the Fenian warriors fight 
on foot ; they are totally unaware of the use of chariots, 
and they do not ride into battle. But the dog is to 
them, as he became actually in later times in Ireland, 
the companion of the hearth, the sharer in the pursuits 
and the affections of man. Bran, Fionn's chief hound, 
is credited with an intelligence which is superhuman. 


and which is only explained by her superhuman origin 
and birth. The touching story of Bran's affection for 
and efforts to save Diarmuid when he is fleeing with 
Grainne before Fionn. will be remembered. 

Fairy Element. — ^There is a strong fairy element in 
the Fenian tales which differs altogether from the 
feeling of aloofness and awe with which the ancient 
gods are regarded in the Northern cycle. The view 
of the gods in the Ossianic ballads and tales is much 
more modern and familiar. They are usually regarded 
as troops of fairy beings who abide underground in the 
Sidh dwelhngs, but who are in constant communication 
with the bands of the Fenian warriors. They have 
meetings with them for games or war ; we find the 
Fenian heroes and the troops of the Tuatha De Danann 
plajang hurley on the same immortal playing-fields, 
or they feast and converse together, or they destroy 
each other on the battle-field ; they even intermarry 
with each other. Fionn had for seven years a shee- 
wife who was alive by day and dead at night, and 
several of his followers had wives of fairy birth. 

This fairy element is one of the most distinctive 
notes of the whole Fenian Saga. When the heroes 
go out hunting, the hind of which they are in pursuit 
turns out frequently to be a witch woman disguised, 
who plunges into a lake or conducts them to some 
fairy habitation underground where they are feasted 
and entertained, or, more frequently, imprisoned and 
held in bondage. 

On the rare occasions in which one of the older gods 
appears in his original aspect as a being apart from 
and elevated above mortal life, we find that Angus, 


the god of Youth and Beauty, usually replaces Lugh 
as the guardian and protector of the heroes. In the 
tale of the " Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne," it is 
Angus who protects Grainne and carries her off under 
his invisible cloak when Fionn is seeking her and she 
can no longer escape from him by other means ; Diar- 
muid is indeed in some sense Angus himself under a 
new form. In one of the poems in the collection 
called Duanaire Finn we are told that Angus, the 
" young son of the Dagda of the clean roads," himself 
kd a party of Fenian warriors to Tara and " drove the 
spoil before them." Like the gods in the Homeric 
wars, he " phed a hidden shooting " and carried off 
the spoils of the slain. 

As a rule, however, the Tuatha De Danann do not 
interfere as single deities in the affairs of the Fenian 
warriors, though they are constantly present in large 
bodies as hosts of fairy warriors. The conception of 
them in these tales is almost precisely the popular fairy 
idea of the present day. 

Belief in Phantoms. — Along with this belief in 
the Fairy-people we find the popular superstitions about 
witches, monsters, giants and dwarfs, huge serpents 
and phantoms of all kinds. Though a large number 
of these folk-tales are known only in a modern form 
we cannot suppose that the ideas they contain are 
modern ; they are those which have held their place 
from immemorial time in a certain stratum of society. 
Many incidents that have survived only as folk-tales 
preserve a very ancient tradition, which may or may 
not have been written down at an earlier stage. The 
tale of Fionn and the Phantoms, a grotesque account 


of the trapping of Fionn and his companions by the 
Nine Phantoms of the Valley of Yew-trees, is one of 
the very earliest Fenian stories that has come down 
to us, for it is found in the Book of Leinster ; yet it is 
a purely popular folk-tale with a modern tone. In it 
Fionn, with Caeilte and Oisin, become separated from 
their companions towards night-fall and seek shelter 
in a house that they perceive before them in the vaUey, 
but which they have never noticed before. They find 
themselves in a hut filled with the most horrid sounds 
of screeching and wailing. In the midst stands a grey 
churl, and along with him are a grim old hag with three 
heads and a man who has no head, but a single eye in 
the middle of his breast. The churl calls on some 
unseen beings to sing a song for the king-warriors of 
the Fianna, upon which nine bodies without heads rise 
up on one side of the dark cottage, and nine heads 
without bodies rise on the other side, and together they 
raise nine horrid screeches which fill the heroes with 

" Though each rough strain of theirs was bad, the headless 

bodies' strain was worse ; 
No strain of all so ill to hear, as the whistle of the one-eyed man, 
The song they sang for us that night would wake the dead from 

out the clay, 
It well-nigh split our heads in twain, that chorus was not melody." 

These verses are taken from the Duanaire Finn, which 
preserves the poem.* The phantoms attack the Fian 
chiefs and fight them all night long, but with the first 

* Many of these poems are written in the ancient syllabic 
non-accented metres. In this poem there are seven syllables 
to the line, and four lines to the quatrain. 


break of day the whole dismal crew, the house and all 
its inhabitants vanish into thin air, leaving Fionn and 
the other heroes in a swoon upon the ground, from 
which, however, they revive in course of time and return 
home none the worse. 

Its Popularity. — ^The Fenian Saga, with its love 
of the chase, of song and war, with its pure delight in 
nature, its strong fairy element, its love of the humorous, 
the grotesque, and the bombastic, and its markedly 
democratic tone, is the creation of the people, and it 
holds its place among them in ballad and song and 
story wherever the Gael is found. In Scotland, as in 
Ireland, tales of the Fenian heroes are familiar at every 
gathering and are told around every turf lire. It 
became a saying that if the Fians were twenty-four 
hours without anyone mentioning them, they would 
rise again. " Old men, hearing these tales, lift their 
bonnets for reverence," said Roderick MacFadyen, of 
Tiree, in 1868 ; a reverence not so much perhaps for 
the matter of the tale, which is often long and tedious, 
as for the fact that it links them with their own long- 
distant past — 

" The old days that seem to be 
Much older than any history 
That is written in any book." 

Something of the same feeling haunts the Gaelic 
auditor when he hears the recitation of the deeds of 
the Fenian heroes as that which is expressed in such 
touching language, in words ascribed to Oisi'n in one 
of his dialogues with St. Patrick. The Pagan hero 


and the Christian saint listen together to the song of 
a bird above them, and the old hero exclaims — 

" If thou, as I, but knew the tale 
It tells of all this ancient isle, 
Thy tears would cease, and thou would'st fail 
To mind thy God, awhile. 

(Sigerson's Translation). 

And yet the surprising problem presents itself that 
while these tales seem best to express the Gaelic spirit, 
the Fenian Saga, as a whole, does not seem to have 
had its origin among the Gaelic population proper, but 
among some tribes dispersed in early times among the 
general population and looked down upon by them as 
the remnants of an earlier and inferior race ; the people 
whom the genealogists of the tenth century called the 

This will become apparent if we consider the legend 
in the oldest form in which it has come down to us, 
and enquire of what elements it was originally composed. 

Origin of the Fenian Tales. 

The tales of the Fianna fall naturally into three 
divisions, embodying a Leinster, a Connacht, and a 
Munster tradition. 

The Leinster tradition became by far the most 
popular, and the adventures of the Leinster Fianna and 
of their leaders, Fionn himself, his son, Oisin, and his 
grandson, Oscar, and of their relative, Caeilte, form 
the subject of the main bulk of the legends. But the 
story of Diarmuid and Grainne seems to preserve traces 
of a Munster tradition, and the frequent localising of 
the scene of Fionn's exploits around the borders of 
Loch Lein, or Killarney, and the Kerry neighbourhood, 
appears to show that many of the legends originated 
in Kerry or West Munster. The fact that Fionn has 
a Munster as well as a Leinster genealogy also shows 
the desire to identify his legend with the Southern 

Thie Connaclit Tradition and Goll mac Morna. 

— The Connacht legend, of which Aedh or Goll mac 
Morna was the hero, would seem to have originally 
occupied a large place in the cycle, but to have gradually 
given way before the more popular Leinster legend. The 
poems in praise of Goll form a good share of the collection 
known as Duanaire Finn, or the " Poem-book of Fionn," 
and are found also in Scotland ; while Goll still retains 
his early position of importance in the folk-tradition 
of the north-west and west of Ireland. 


In a rhapsody in praise of this Connacht leader, 
found in the Scottish Book of the Dean of Lismore, 
GoU is extolled quite as highly as is Fionn himself in 
the companion eulogy on the Leinster chief : 

" Highminded GoU, 
Sworn foe of Finn, 
Hero in might. 
Bold in assault ; 
Free in his gifts. 
Fierce in his hate. 
By all beloved, 
GoU, gentle, brave ; 
Morna's great son, . 
First in the school, 
Of gentle blood. 
Of noble race. 
Liberal, kind, 
Untired in fight. 
No prince so wise . . . 
Of fairest face. 
No king like GoU." 

He is frequently spoken of as the " great-souled son 
of Morna," and in the tale called " The Little Brawl at 
Almhain (Allen) " he is placed next to Fionn himself 
in the list of Fenian warriors and takes equal rank 
with him as leader of his own Connacht troops. Some- 
times he is represented as the friend and ally of Fionn ; 
he rids Fionn of a terrible deformed hag of whom all 
the host declare themselves afraid, in order to prove 
to the chief that " when the need is greatest, 'tis then 
the friend is proven ; "* and his trustworthiness is 
commented on frequently in the Ossianic poems ; 

* Tale of the Cave of Keshcorran, Silva Gadelica, Ed. S. H. 
O'Grady, ii., p. 347. 


" We were staunch, relying on Goll ; now that Goll 
of the feasts Hves not, every man is bold against us." 
There is a touching story of Goll's protection of his 
adversary, Fionn, when the latter had ventured alone 
one evening across the ford and found Goll sleeping 
in the midst of his hosts. Fionn awakens and challenges 
Goll, but the chief of the Connacht warriors points to 
the array of his hosts who have placed themselves 
between Fionn and his retreat. Fionn appeals to his 
protection, and Goll nobly responds by conducting 
Fionn safely back into the midst of his own army 
[Duanaire Finn in.). The incident may be compared 
to Cuchulain's protection of Meave's army during its 
retreat across the Shannon. Fionn even bestows on 
Goll his own daughter to wife.* 

But there were causes of jealousy between the two 
chieftains. In the tale called " The Little Brawl 
at Allen " Fionn is represented as jealous of GoU's 
wealth, and of the rents which he had exacted 
independently of the Leinster chief from the King of 
Lochlann,t and there were other causes of quarrel 
between them. Nor was it possible that Fionn should 
forget that Goll it was who had killed his father in the 
Battle of Cnucha. This deed was always coming up 
between them, and it ended in a violent feud in which 
Fionn pursued Goll with persistent enmity and finally 
drove him to death. Goll is found pent up at last on 
a narrow crag in the wide ocean, his faithful wife by 
his side still refusing to abandon him, fierce with the 
pangs of hunger and with only brine to drink, yet still 
untamed, and slaying one by one the warriors sent 
against him. One of the most pathetic poems in the 
• Ibid., ii., p. 347. j Ibid., ii., p. 380. 


Dttanaire Finn (No. X) describes his appeal to his wife 
on the evening before he is slain to leave his side and 
seek safety in the tents of the enemy, and her refusal to 
do so ; while another short poem of great force launches 
as the refrain of each stanza his curse upon the house 
of Baeiscne. 

The character of GoU mac Morna is everywhere 
represented as powerful, noble, and magnanimous. 

Fionn. — But though GoU is lauded for magnanimity, 
Oisi'n for wisdom and poetical gifts, and Oscar for 
bravery, it is around the head of Fionn that the praises 
of the poets cluster. He is the " golden salmon," 
" the gift-bestowing noble leader of the hosts," " the 
diversely accompUshed sage," the Fian chief whose 
accomplishments exceeded those of all the fifteen Fian 
leaders before him.* He is equally renowned as poet 
and warrior ; most of the early Fenian poems are 
ascribed to Fionn himself or to Caeilte, or to his poetic 
son, Fergus True-Ups ; it is only later that we find 
Oisi'n replacing Fionn as the supposed author of the 
Ossianic ballads and verses. Caeilte is regarded as 
the author of nearly all the poems in the " Colloquy," 
save a few ascribed to Fionn, and he frequently composes 
them in response to questions proposed by Oisi'n ; 
while in the collection called Duanaire Finn, the authors 
are various. The Leinster chief's generosity is such 

" Were but the brown leaf that the wood sheds from it gold — 

Were but the white billow silver — 

Fionn would have given it all away;"t 

while the splendour of his equipment, his fort and 
* Silva Gad., ii., pp. 166-167. f Ibid., ii., p. 104. 


servants, his retinue of poets, physicians, wise men 
and warriors is the theme of innumerable poems and 
eulogies. Yet the actual character of the hero as we 
find it set before us in the tales is strangely in contrast 
to these fair eulogiums. He is often represented as 
vindictive, tortuous in his deahngs, little given to pity 
or to straightforward action. He would seem to have 
two aspects ; his official character as a chieftain, and 
his less pleasing character as a private individual. 
As we may regard the personality of Fionn to be com- 
pounded out of many different ideals, this need not 
disturb us. 

Leinster Tradition.— The great number of poems 
and tales dealing with the adventures of Fionn, of 
ascribed to the hero himself, amply prove that the 
Ossianic cycle is in the main a Leinster product. Fionn 
himself is a Leinster man, his palace is at Almhain 
(Allen), in the present County of Kildare, and the tales 
deal for the greater part with the wars and deeds of 
the Leinster Fianna. It will be necessary to look a 
little more closely into the matter in order to discover 
among what section of this Leinster population the tales 
arose and under what circumstances the cycle was 
formed. The genealogies of Finn will aid us in deter- 
mining this. They are not very easy to understand, 
because he has at least three distinct genealogies, and 
there are also considerable differences between the 
various accounts even of these three. The oldest account 
is probably that which makes him one of the Ui Tairrsigh 
of Failge (Offaley, a great district comprising the 
present counties of Kildare and parts of King's and 
Queen's Counties), sometimes identified with the 


Luaigne of Tara, or more properly with the Gaileoin, 
a distinct race of people settled in parts of Leinster. 
This is his Leinster pedigree, and by much the oldest 
and most important. 

Munster Tradition. — ^The two others connect him 
with Mimster. The first gives him a descent from 
the Corca-Oiche Ui Fidhgeinte,* from whom the tribe 
of the Ui Tairrsigh branched. The second makes 
him a descendant of the Orbhraighe, of Druim Imnocht, 
probably the people of the barony of Orrery in Co. 
Cork. These are only three of the most important 
out of the six different descents assigned to Fionn mac 
Cumhall in Mac Firbis' great collection of genealogies. 
Evidently there was much uncertainty about his real 
origin, and he was claimed as champion by both the 
Southern Provinces and assigned a place among their 
tribes. We may discard here the theories of his Munster 
origin, which seem to have been invented at some 
late date, probably when the kingdom of Cashel rose 
into prominence, or when the family of the Dal Cais 
came to the front with the rapid rise of Brian Boru 
to power, t It may well have seemed a necessity to 
be able to claim one of the national heroes as the head 

* Intended in the later genealogies to designate the sept of 
that name in Co. Limerick. 

f The only sept that claimed descent from Fionn is the Dal 
Cais, i.e., the O'Briens of Munster. It is said that Fearcorb, 
their progenitor, was son of one of Finn's daughters by Grainne, 
d. of Cormac mac Airt. As the Dal Cais, or Dalcassians, were un- 
known to fame until shortly before the time of Brian Boromhe 
(Boru) and his brothers, it is clear that this Munster genealogy 
was invented after that time to dignify the ancestry of theii race. 


of the Southern clans ; but the general tradition has 
always made Fionn a Leinsterman, and there is good 
manuscript authority for adhering to this tradition. 
It is not only supported by Mac Firbis, but also more 
expUcitly in the Book of Leinster.* 

We give here this pedigree from the Book of Leinster, 
with some additions from other sources to make it more 

Bresal brec 


Leinster Pedigree. 

Connla, ancestor Lughaid, ancestor 

of Ossory of Leinster 

Setna Sitkbhrac^ k. of Leinster ; his 4th son was 

Nuada nccht, who killed Eterscel mor, and hecame k. of Tara ; m. 
I Almu 

B»ps™« ' • Dondduma 

^^*'' Tadbg m. Rairiu 


Trenmhor (m. Baine, d. of ScAl balbh) 

Cumhall, m. — — — Muirn tnunchaemh 


We must remark on this pedigree that the names 
Eltan and Sualt are usually omitted. In one of Mac 
Firbis' genealogies they are given as one word, " Sab- 
halt," but the real explanation of them is found in 
a tract on Fionn in MS. Egerton, 1782, in which Fionn's 
pedigree is given thus : " Fionn, s. of Cumhall, s. of 
Sualtach, s. of Baeiscne, s. of Nuada Necht." It is 
clear that this is no other than the father of Cuchulain 

* cf. Silva Gadelica, ii., Extracts X. (iv.), a. b., p. 519 ; and the 
" Colloquy with the Ancient Men," ibid, ii., p. 245. 


transferred into the genealogy of Fionn.* To show 
the wide differences which exist in Fiona's pedigrees we 
give one of the Munster genealogies from the Book of 
Lecan (col. 768). 


Dedad (mythical ancestor of the Ivernians of Slunster, 

I who were called Clann Dedad). 


IrgoU (or " Forgoll," Mac Firbis). 





A note to this adds, " Tliis is not tlie Leinster pedigree;" 

Difficulties in tlie Pedigrees. — The variety in his 
pedigxees was evidently long ago a matter of difficulty 
to the scribes, for in MS. Egerton, 1782, after relating 
that Fionn fell in battle with the three sons of Uirgrenn 
and Aichlech mor, son of Duibhrenn, the third son of 
Uirgrenn, at Ath Brea on the Boyne, the scribe adds : 
" His origin the experts declare variously ; some of 
them say that he was of the Corca-oiche in Ua Fidh- 
geinte ; others again assert (and this is the truth of the 
matter) that he was of the lii Tairrsigh of Offaley, 
which were of the Aithech Tuatha, as Maelmura has 

* This reading of the name was conjectured by Dr. Kuno 
Meyer in an article on Fionn's genealogy which appeared in 
the Academy, February 2ist, 1885 ; but he does not seem to 
have been aware of the references which confirm his supposition. 


said in the chronicle : Six stocks there are that shall 
have territorial settlement, but are not of Breogan's 
people, viz. : the Gabhraidhe of the Suca ; the Ui 
Tairrsigh, the Gaileoin of Leinster [and others]." (Si). 
Gad, ii., p. 99.) 

In the piece called " The Boyish Exploits of Fionn " 
{Mac-ghniomhartha Fhinn) Cumhall is said to be " of 
the Corca-oiche, a tribe of Cuil Contuinn, and it was 
from these that the Ui Tairrsigh, the tribe of Cumhall, 
branched."* This tale is a very old one, being found 
in the Psalter of Cashel. The Leinster origin of the 
tribe we may consider to have been the oldest tradition, 
and it corresponds to all we otherwise know of the 
Ui Tairrsigh, i.e., the people of Cumhall, who were a 
Leinster sept of the Ui Failghe, the traditional 
descendants of Ros Failghe, eldest son of Cathair m6r. 
Their country was very extensive before the English 
invasion, and from them the O'Conor Falys and 
O'Dempseys claim descent. It comprised the present 
baronies of East and West Offaley in Kildare and other 
districts in King's and Queen's Counties, f There is, 
however, considerable difference in the account of the 
exact home of the lii Tairrsigh. In the " Colloquy " 
Drum Cree (Druim Criaich) in Westmeath is said to 
be in their territory. It is evident that Fionn has been 
locaUzed in various districts of Leinster. Accepting 

* O'Donovan locates this tribe " on the borders of Meath and 
Cavan," which would have been within the ancient borders of 
Ulster, but his opinion is unauthenticated. 

■j- In the " Colloquy " this pedigree is given thus : " Fionn, s. of 
Cumhall, s. of Tredhorn, s. of Cairbre garbshrtin " rough nose,'' 
s. of Fiacha fdbhreac, " slightly freckled," of the lii Fhailge. 
Sil. Gad, ii., p. 245. 


this general tradition of the race of Fionn and Cumhall 
as the one usually accounted most correct, we must 
ask, who were these peoples, the Ui Tairrsigh, the 
Gaileoin, the Gabhraidhe, and the Luaigne of Tara 
from whom this great hero was popularly believed to 
be descended ? 

It will be remembered that in the quotation made 
above from the account of Fionn's death, found in 
MS. Egerton, 1782, these three stocks are said to be not 
of Breogan's people, that is, not of the Milesian race,* 
though they were settled among them, but to be of the 
Aithech Tuatha or unfree tribes, who were a subject race. 
This is said to be quoted from Maelmura of Fathan, 
a writer of genealogical and historical poems, who 
died in 884. It is possible that in Maelmura's time 
these remnants of a subject race may still have remained 
in Leinster and have been known to him. In any 
case their tradition was still alive. Keating repeats 
the same account of them in his chapter on the Firbolg. 
He says : " Some antiquaries say that it is from the 
Firbolg come these three tribes which are in Ireland, 
but are not of the Gael, namely, the Gabhraidhe of 
Suca (R. Suck) in Connacht, the Ui Tairrsigh in the 
country of the O'Failge and the Gaileoin of Leinster. "f 

The Firbolg. — The people from whom Fionn was 
beheved to be descended were then a subjected race, 
not of the true Gaels or Milesians, but belonging to those 
vassal tribes scattered through the country who were 
known under the general name of Firbolg, and who 

* Breogan was father of Bill, whose son was Galamh or 
Milesius, the ancestor of the Milesians. 

f History of Ireland, Ed. Comyn, for Ir. T. Society, p. 201. 


were popularly believed to have inhabited the whole 
of Ireland at an earlier period of its history. 

They are more commonly divided into the Fir Galian, 
the Fir Domhnann, and the Fir Bolg,* but were gathered 
under the general name of Fir Bolg. These people 
were looked down upon by the true Gaels, and were 
regarded by them with the utmost contempt and hatred. 
Mac Firbis, in his introduction to his great Book of 
Genealogies, says of them : " Everyone who is black- 
haired, who is a tattler, guileful, tale-telling, Jioisy, 
contemptible ; every wretched, mean, strolling, un- 
steady, harsh and inhospitable person ; every slave, 
every mean thief, every churl, everyone who loves not 
to listen to music and entertainment, the disturbers of 
every council and assembly and the promoters of 
discord among men, these are the descendants of the 
Firbolg, of the Gaileoin, of Liogairne and of the 
Fir Domhnann, in Erin. But, however, the descendants 
of the Firbolg are the most numerous of all these." 

But though this was the official verdict of the 
conquerors upon the races they had conquered, but 
who remained scattered among them up and down 
the country, the occasional glimpses that we get of 
these people in the stories give us quite a different idea 
of them. As a matter of fact, the Gaels seem to have 
been jealous of their activity, courage and energy. 
In the opening account of the forces collected by Queen 
Meave for the war of the Tain ho Cuailnge, we find 
the Gaileoin or Gailiana exceeding all the other troops 
of Ireland in these qualities. When King Ailell, her 

* Ibid, p. 195. Cf. The Irish Nennius, Ed. Todd, 1848, pp. 44, 
49 ; and for a list of the unfree or rent-paying tribes, cf. O'Curry 
Mans. Cust., Intro., p. xxvii. n. 


husband, questions her as to the spirit and disposition 
of the various contingents, she is forced angrily to 
acknowledge that in comparison with the GaiUana or 
Gaileoin all the others were but a poor set ; when the 
other troops had but just halted to encamp, the Gaihana 
had finished pitching their tents and bothies ; when 
others had set up their shelters the Gaihana had made 
an end of cooking ; when others were beginning to eat, 
the Gailiana had finished their meal ; while others were 
still eating, the Gailiana were already in bed and asleep. 
Ailell congratulates himself that they have such excellent 
troops on their side, but Meave protests that she would 
like to exterminate the whole of them, as she considers 
them to be a danger in the host. She is only dissuaded 
from this vengeful and unjust act by the persuasions 
of Fergus and her husband, and on condition that they 
are dispersed through the army and are not allowed 
to remain more than five men together in any one 
place. It was the policy of the free tribes or Milesians 
in every way to depress and hold down their powerful 
predecessors. Like Meave, they feared that a com- 
bination of these active warriors might at some time 
threaten their authority, and they took the same course 
as Meave pursued with the Gaileoin to weaken them, 
by dispersing them throughout all Erin and taking 
their lands from them.* 

It seems to have been among this brave but unfree 
race that the legends of the Fianna had their origin. 
It is impossible to suppose that the Gael would 
deliberately have made Fionn, who became a national 
hero for the whole country, a member of the race they 

* See Mac Firbis' Introduction to the Book of Genealogies ; 
O' Curry, Mans. Oust., Intro., xxvii. n. 


despised, unless some early tradition had existed 
identifying the legends with these people. But if they had 
learned the stories from these warlike remnants of older 
races living beside and among themselves and among 
whom probably their children were fostered, a people 
who were their servants, nurses and hired troops, the 
theories of Fionn's origin would become comprehensible. 
They traced his descent from the septs among whom 
his legends were first repeated. 

Slow Acceptance of the Tales. — If we accept 
this theory of the rise of the Fenian legends among a 
subject race it would help us also to explain the othei- 
wise curious fact of their slow acceptance by the learned 
men and the deliberate preference shown by them for 
the literature of the Cuchulain cycle, which arose 
among the free and dominant Gaelic peoples and is 
marked by a haughty independence. That a number 
of the stories were known in the time of the gathering 
of the great collections of romance in the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries, and even long before this, is 
certain ; the tales, poems and allusions found in our 
earliest remaining books, the Psaltair of Cashel, the 
Book of the Dun, and the Book of Leinster prove 
this abundantly. But though they were known, they 
are only sparsely represented among the great mass 
of Cuchulain tales or of tales of independent origin. 
They seem to have been unwillingly admitted as part of 
the national literary heritage and to have been dependent 
almost entirely upon oral transmission through several 
centuries. Though a single allusion in an old poem 
makes us aware that the love tale of Diarmuid and 
Grainne is as old at least as the ninth century, the 


oldest copy that we have of the whole story is of the 
fifteenth century. The great bulk of the stories of the 
Cuchulain cycle which has come down to us dates, in 
its written form, from the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, but the great bulk of the written Ossianic 
Literature comes to us from the late fifteenth century 
onward, the largest portion being comparatively recent 
and dating only from the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries. Yet it is quite possible that of the two 
the Fenian legend is in its origin older than the Cuchulain 
cycle. There are proofs that the general outline, 
already half-historic, half-romantic, was formed at least 
by the eighth or ninth century. The tales of Mongan- 
Fionn are thought to belong to the eighth century; 
there are allusions to Fionn in the Eulogy on St. Colum- 
cille {Antra Choluimh Chille), and in Cormac's Glossary, 
which cannot be more than a century later, and Cinaedh 
hui Artacain (d. 975), and Tighernach the Annalist 
(d. 1088), both mention the death of Fionn at Ath-Brea 
on the Boyne. 

No doubt, the legends themselves are far older 
than any written record we have of them. The 
fact that they were generally known, but not considered 
to be worthy of insertion in the great collections, 
is easily understood on the supposition that they 
were looked upon as the popular folk-beliefs and 
stories of the people who were regarded by the ruling 
and dominant class as their vassals, an infeirior race 
whom they at once feared and despised ; it is not 
easily explained on any other ground. Its rise and 
location in different parts of Ireland is also natural 
when we consider how these people were dispersed 
through the country. Starting with a common tradition 


the cycle would develop along independent lines in 
Leinster, in Connacht, and in Munster, and in each 
province localities would be identified with the deeds 
of Fionn and his heroes, and special stories would be 
invented to illustrate them. With the dying out of 
the more splendid Cuchulain cycle, and with the gradual 
absorption of the subject races in the general population 
and the loss of those distinctive marks of vassalage which 
had divided them off as a separate race from the aristo- 
cratic families, the tales of Fionn would work their 
way upward and begin to receive wider notice. The 
Ulster cycle was too local to retain a permanent place, 
and it had never touched the people at all ; it remained 
as the ideal and pastime of the well-to-do and ruling 
classes. When Ulster ceased to give its kings to Tara 
and Munster princes replaced the long succession of 
Ui Neill, a fresh heroic legend, representing southern 
Ireland, was needed ; perhaps we may take the adoption 
of Fionn as head of the house of Dal Cais, whose chief, 
Brian, rose to be first Southern King of Ireland, as a 
mark of the change of feeling. At any rate it was 
about this time that the cycle underwent its greatest 

The Norse invasions brought into it a new and 
wider element. Fionn and Goll were no longer 
mere local leaders of mercenary bands, engaged in 
carrying on interminable blood-feuds between them- 
selves, and occupied during the months in which they 
could not fight in the more peaceful arts of venery ; 
they became national warriors, engaged in defending the 
coasts against foreign invasion, or extending a world- 
power outside Ireland. The Lochlannach is no longer a 
fairy-being, dwelling beneath the waters of the inland 


lakes ; he is the Norse invader against whom Brian 
and the whole country must wage never-ceasing war. 

Second Period. — To this second period of Ossianic 
revival belong a large number of tales and ballads 
which have as their subject fights with over-sea warriors, 
excursions into distant lands, and the rescue of fair 
women from foreign tyrants. 

These tales and ballads, having the Norse invasions 
as their subject, continued to be invented at least up 
to the twelfth century, for several mention the name 
of Manus or King Magnus of Norway, who fell in battle 
in Ireland in 1103 a.d. After the middle of the twelfth 
century, though Norse raids continued, they were 
rather isolated attacks than national efforts to conquer 
the country. The coming of the Normans directed 
attention in another direction, and we may consider 
that the second epoch of the Ossianic legend closed 
about this time. There is no mention in any of the 
poems or prose tales of the Norman invaders ; we may 
therefore presume that they ceased for a time to be 

The third period of Ossianic production extends 
from before the fifteenth century down almost to our own 
day. The great body of Scottish and Irish Ossianic 
ballads belongs to this period, with numerous prose tales, 
usually of an extravagant and bombastic nature, 
intended chiefly for entertainment and retaining httle 
trace of the historic tone of the ancient tales. 


Historical Probability of the Fenian Legend. 

Before examining the separate taks more closely, 
let us return for a moment to the traditions of Fionn's 
ancestry and personality. We have said that the 
Fenian legends appear to have arisen among the Firbolg 
peoples, but the question still remains : was Fionn an 
actual chief of Leinster warriors, and did such a body 
of troops ever actually exist as we hear of in the traditions 
of the Fianna, over whom Fionn is represented as 
presiding either as captain of a local militia or as an 
over-sea conqueror and guardian of Ireland in the Norse 
period ? To answer the latter part of the question we 
can appeal to the history of the period. The method of 
attack by the Norse and the defence offered by the 
Irish are well known, and we may say at once that 
there is no notice in the history of a force organised 
under its own leaders for the defence of the country, 
independent of the tribal and provincial chiefs or of the 
Kings of Tara. The tribal system, in which each chief 
called out and sustained his own tribesmen in the field, 
himself leading them to battle, was in full sway during 
the Norse period and was the ordinary method of 
defence. There was, indeed, just such quartering of 
soldiers upon the people as was complained of under 
the Fenian regime, but it was Norse or Norse-Irish 
fighting-men from whose exactions the native inhabi- 
tants suffered. There is no sign during the Norse 
period of the existence of an organised militia for 


purposes of national defence such as is pictured in the 
Fenian tales. But for purposes of foreign warfare 
it is probable that in Ireland, as elsewhere, bodies of 
mercenary troops under powerful leaders would con- 
stantly be raised, who would be independent of the 
claims of the sept and would be ready for service when- 
ever required. Whether they were also used within 
the country is uncertain. 

Such semi-historical stories as the Battle of Magh 
Rath, or the Battles of Rosnaree or Clontarf, or the 
account of the Battle of Chester in 912, show that mixed 
mercenary forces were always available when any 
special military expedition was in progress. Going 
further back, the constant wars of the Irish " Scots," 
in union with the Picts and Britons, against the Romans 
during the fomrth and early fifth centuries, make the 
existence at that time of large levies of trained troops 
in Ireland fit and ready for foreign service and fighting 
under recognised leaders extremely probable. The 
ordinary system of military service would probably 
have been unsuited to troops employed in continuous 
foreign warfare ; and forced levies entirely at the 
disposal of their leaders and whose services were repaid 
in money or its equivalent would become a necessity. 
Nothing is more likely than that the unfree populace 
would be largely drawn upon for such miUtary service. 
They could be ordered abroad or wherever required 
with a facihty which would not have been possible 
in deahng with free and independent tribesmen. The 
fact that these septs had been in large part deprived 
of their lands and that they were a naturally active 
and miUtary race would dispose them to turn to fighting 
as a natural outlet to their energies. Their condition 


of dependence is expressed in such comments as that 
in the Dindsenchus of Druim n-Dairbrech, where we 
read of some of these unfree tribes : " The Fidgai, the 
Fochmaind, the Gaileoin, were not their own masters 
early or late."* 

It therefore seems natural to suppose that the Fenian 
tradition may have arisen out of an actual condition 
of things, probably existing in Ireland through a con- 
siderable period of time, and the idea of which was a 
familiar one to the people at large. 

Actual Existence of the Fenian Leaders. — 

But when we pass from the general question of the 
existence of a miUtia quartered upon the clans but 
owning obedience only to their own leaders and not to the 
chiefs of the clans, to consider that of special personages 
mentioned in the legends, we must approach the subject 
with greater caution. Let us return to the genealogy 
of Fionn himself. It will strike us at once, even if we 
confine ourselves entirely to the best authenticated 
Leinster pedigree, that it is a pedigree concocted from 
mixed sources and that it contains a very large element 
of the supernatural. The introduction of the name 
of Sualtach or Sualtam, Cuchulain's father, broken into 
two and filhng two links, is curious, and it becomes 
more interesting in connection with the whole question 
of Fionn's genealogy when we remember that though 
Sualtach is usually regarded as the mortal father of 
Cuchulain, he is called more than once in old Irish 
literature, " Sualtach sidhe," or Sualtach sidhech, 
i.e., " Sualtach of the fairy mounds," and is spoken of 

* Metrical Dind., Part II., p. 47, Ed. E. Gwynn, R.I. A. 
Todd Lecture Series. 


as possessing, through the power of his mother, who 
was an elf woman, " the magical might of an elf."* 

Discarding the name of Sualtach, which is clearly an 
innovation, and does not occur in most of the genealogies, 
we come to the name of Cumhall's father, Trenmhor, 
or " great strength," which sounds suspiciously like a 
concocted name ; and when, further on, mounting to the 
head of the pedigree, we find that Fionn was removed 
by but few intermediate steps (in many of the genealogies 
by three only, viz., Baeiscne, Trenmhor, and Cumhall) 
from the god Nuada, from whom most of the Leinster 
tribes traced their descent, we feel that we are on 
ground that is not far separated from pure mythology. 
It will be noticed that Nuada Necht is also Fionn's 
great grandfather on the female side, through Muirn 
" of the smooth-neck," whom Cumhall married, and 
who was daughter of Tadhg, son of Nuada and his 
wife, Almu. 

Now all these persons are purely mythological figures, 
and are always regarded in Irish literature as gods 
and goddesses. In the " Colloquy " we read, in answer 
to the query, " Who was Fionn's mother ? " " She 
was Muime smooth-neck, daughter of Tadhg, son of 
Nuada, of the Tuatha di Danann ;"t and elsewhere, 
in reckoning up the chief princes of the Tuatha d6 
Danann, Tadhg's name is mentioned with such well- 
known deities as Bodhb Derg, Angus Og, Lir of sidh 
Fionnachaidh, etc., as " Tadhg, son of Nuada, out of 
the beautiful sidh of Almhain."J 

A similar mythical origin is given for Seal balbh, 
whose daughter, Baine, was wife to Trenmhor and 

* LL. 58a, 24 ; C6ir Anmann, Irische Texti, Sec. .282. 

t SUva Gad. II., p. 245. % Ibid., p. 225. 


mother of Cumhall. He is said in one place to have 
been " King of the Fomori," or gods of the sea ; and 
yet again he is father of the god Lugh Ldmh-fhada, the 
god of light.* 

Nuada Necht himself appears in legend under a 
double personality ; he is sometimes a god and some- 
times the powerful Druid and magician of Cathair 
m6r.t Under both forms his wife was Almu or Almha, 
who dwelt in the sidh in Leinster, to which she gave her 
name. This hill of Allen, in Kildare, became traditionally 
the central fort and residence of Fionn. It is called 
in the older form, Almu, and in the later Ossianic 
ballads, Almhain, but though certain spots in the 
neighbourhood are still traditionally associated with 
incidents in the Fenian stories, there is no sign of any 
ancient rath or mound on the hill itself. Like other 
places associated with the Fenian legends, it vanishes 
into a fairy haunt when we approach it more closely. 
When, in the "Colloquy," Caeilte is questioned as to 
the origin of the name, he replies : "It was a warrior 
of the Tuatha d6 Danann that lived in the teeming, 
glittering brugh : Bracon (or Becan) was his name, 
and he had a daughter that was still a virgin ; her 
name was Almha." What comes next is erroneous. 
" Cumhall, son of Trenmhor, took her to wife ; in 

* Book of Ballymote, fac. 403a, 33 ; we find him said to be " of 
the Saxons " in B. Lee, p. 3856, 41. Silva Gad. II., Extracts 
XXIV. (ii.) ; ibid. VI. (v.) 

t The pedigree of Nuada, the Dniid of Cathair m6r, is : Son 
of Achi, s. of Dathi, s. of Brocan, s. of Fintan of Tuath-Dathi 
in Brega. His wife was Almu, who, according to this story, 
died of grief for the destruction of her castle and death of her 
husband. Fotha Catha C-nucha, or Causes of the Battle of 
Cnucha, Rev. Celt. II., p. 86. 


bearing him a son she died, and this green-surfaced 
tulach was closed in over her. From her, therefore, 
it is now named, whereas until then it had been called 
' the Look-out Hill.' "* 

The same atmosphere of fairy-lore comes into the 
description of every personage and of every act of the 
Saga. Diarmuid O'Duibhne, called in Duanaire- 
Finn" Diarmuid O'Duibhne from the Brugh," had been 
brought up among the gods, " with the powerful Manan- 
nan mac Lir in the land of promise ; " " with Angus 
Og, the Dagda's son, he had learned knowledge." 
Cnii Dheireoil, Fionn's dwarf harper, is " son of Lugh 
of comely form ; " Oisin's mother, Blai, daughter of 
Derc " of the forcible language," is a sfdh-woman. 
(Colloquy, Silva Gad. II., p. 102). Even Bran, Fionn's 
hound, is superhuman. In Duanaire-Finn xvii., we 

" Bran though a hound was yet no hound ; 
Good was her valour, fair her fame ; 
She was no hound's offspring, from no hound sprang ; 
No hunting-dog's offspring was her mother." 

But the most important among the traditions 
regarding Fionn himself is that which connects him 
with a mysterious being called Mongan, who was, 

* Silva Gad. II., p. 131. 

Almu was wife to Nuada, not to Cumhall, and the true storjr 
is told in the Dindsenchus of Almu : 

" Almu, beautiful the woman ! 
Wife of Nuada m6r, son of Achi ; 
She entreated — just the award — 
That her name should be on the entire hill." f 

t Todd Lecture Series, Vol. IX., p. 73, and cf. Dind : of 
Rennes, Rev. Celt. XV., p. 309. 


according to the historical accounts, son of Fiachna 
Finn, a King of Ulster in the early part of the seventh 
century, but, according to the old traditions, a son of 
Mananndn mac Lir, and a man gifted, like his super- 
natural father, with surpassing knowledge and subtle 
intelligence and the power of shape-shifting. It is 
hinted in one story that this Mongan was, in reality, 
Fionn mac Cumhall, re-born four centuries after his 
death. He is addressed as Fionn by a distinguished 
warrior, who says he is Caeilte, Fionn's foster-son. It 
does not seem clear that this Mongan is always regarded 
as Fionn, but the suggestion is a curious one, and is 
one more Hnk connecting his personaUty with the 
mythological world. It is the only tradition connecting 
the Leinster leader with Ulster, and was, perhaps, 
invented for this special purpose.* 

Now, the fact that Fionn's genealogy is traced up to 
Nuada Necht and Tadhg, his son, who are both gods, 
need not necessarily mean that he himself is superhuman, 
any more than the fact that many of the rulers of Europe 
trace their descent from Woden and other deities 
makes them gods themselves ; but in the case of Fionn 
and his compeers the genealogies are so near to the 
fountain-head and are, like all his history, so closely 
interwoven with the supernatural, that it becomes 
difficult to regard him and his followers otherwise 
than as products of the''poetic imagination. In this 
instance it is the imagination of a subjected race, 
regarded as outcast by their conquerors, but whose 
traditions, as the race distinction slowly died out, 
became the heritage of the entire nation. It was a 
tradition looked down upon by the official story-tellers 

*For this legend, see " Voyage of Bran," by A. Nutt, pp. 45-51. 


as unworthy of their notice ; they did not recite the 
tales or copy them into their books ; but the legend 
nevertheless gradually made its way, was added to and 
expanded, until from the fifteenth century onward it 
formed the most voluminous portion of the country's 
literature. To deal separately with each piece in this 
vast collection of ballads and stories would be impossible, 
but a few of them must be mentioned separately. 


Longer Fenian Romances. 

The Causes of the Battle of Cnucha {Fotha Catha 
Cnucha). — ^This piece describes the causes of the heredi- 
tary feud that existed between the sons of Moma, or 
Connacht Fianna, led by Aedh or GoU mac Morna, 
and the Leinster Fianna. After giving the genealogy 
of Nuada and Tadhg, his son, it describes the beauty 
of Tadhg's daughter, Muirn Munchaemh, and Cum- 
hall's desire to marry her. Being refused, he carried 
her off by force. He was ordered by Conn, King 
of Tara, to give up Muirn, but instead of doing so 
he eloped with her to Scotland. Then Conn gathered 
his forces and united with the Luaigne of Tara under 
Urgrend, or Uirgrenn, s. of Lugaidh Corr, together with 
Aedh mac Morna and the Connacht warriors to attack 
Cumhall. They met in the Battle of Cnucha and Cum- 
hall was slain. Aedh's eye was put out in the fight by 
Luchet, who, in revenge, was slain by Aedh. This was 
the beginning of a feud between the Leinster and Con- 
nacht Fianna which afterwards completely separated 
them and made of the hitherto united band two hostile 
troops. Aedh was henceforth called GoU " the blind " 
on account of the loss of his eye. After the battle 
Muirn returned to her father, Tadhg, but he gave orders 
that she should be burned alive in punishment for her 
flight with Cumhall. She fled to Conn for protection, and 
he sent her into the care of a sister of Cumhall, Bodhmall 
the Druidess, Fiacail's wife. Here Fionn was born, 


and was first named Deimne ; as soon as he was old 
enough he proclaimed war with Tadhg and demanded 
full eric for his father's death. Tadhg gave up to him 
Almu for ever and a portion of his own hereditary land. 
A peace was patched up between Fionn and GoU, which 
lasted until " the slasring of the Sucking-Pig of Slanga," 
on the plain of Teamhair Luachra (parish of Dysart, 
Co. Kerry).* 

The Boyish Exploits of Fionn (Mac-ghniomhartha 
Fhinn). — ^This tale opens with an account of the Battle 
of Cnucha similar to the above, save that Conn is not 
mentioned. The simplicity and directness of both 
pieces are a sign of their age ; there is none of the 
redundancy of the later tales. They give a brief 
narration of events, couched in short sentences, and 
show no effort after literary style. The story goes 
on to relate the rearing of Fionn in the forest and his 
early adventures, his bojdsh feats of com-age, and the 
adoption of his name Fionn " fair " in place of Deimne on 
account of the fairness of his appearance. He visits the 
plain of the Liffey (Magh Life) and takes part in hurting 
on the lawn, hunts deer in the Slieve Bloom Mountains 
(SMibhe Blidhma), and hires himself into miUtary service 
to the King of Bantry in S. Munster ; he also remains 
some time with a king in Co. Kerry, and passes thence 

* These were magical swine which re-appeared as often as 
they were killed and eaten. The last Slanga pig is said to have 
satisfied twenty-five battalions. Tadhg is here erroneously called 
" Tadhg of the Towers," which suggests that the version must 
be later than the reign of the celebrated King of Connacht of 
that name who died 954 a.d., and with whom he seems to have 
been confused. 


into Connacht. Afterwards he seeks the R. Boyne, 
to study with Finn-eigeas and to watch for the " Salmon 
of Knowledge " from the pool of Feic, the eating of 
which was to endue him with wisdom and with the 
gifts of magic and prophecy. When the salmon was 
caught, Fionn was put to cook it, but happening to 
touch it with his thumb, he burned himself and put 
the thumb into his mouth, by which means all magical 
knowledge became revealed to him. Henceforth, 
whenever he was in difficulty he had recourse to his 
" Thumb of Knowledge ; " when he put it under his 
tooth he obtained the direction he was in need of. The 
allegory of the Salmon of Knowledge, which must be 
caught in youth and which is watched over by the 
aged sage of learning, is repeated in Irish Literature 
under many forms. The piece closes with Fionn's 
well-known poem in praise of Spring.* 

Battle of Gaura {Cath Gabhra). — ^There are both 
prose and poetical versions of this tale in existence. 
It must be an ancient tale, for there is a short poem 
referring to it in the Book of Leinster. The causes of 
this battle, which closed the period of Fenian power, 
have been already stated. , One of the finest passages 
in Ossianic Literature is the account in the poetical 
version of the death of Oscar, and of the grief of Oisin, 
his father, and the Fians for their chief. 

Some portions of the Scottish version of the poem 
are identical with the form preserved in Ireland. 

* There are manifest imitations of the boyish'f eats of Cuchulain 
in this piece ; this is even more evident in a poem on the subject 
in the Duanaire Finn XV., where the prophecy of Cuchulain' s 
future greatness is repeated for Fionn ; but there is no mention 
of the combats or slaughter. The feats are all peaceful. 


The Colloquy with the Ancient Men [Agallamh 
na Senorach). — This is by far the longest and most 
important of all the prose pieces belonging to the 
Fenian cycle. It is a collection or corpus of stories 
relating to the Fianna and their chiefs thrown together 
in the form of a Dindsenchus or geographical guide. 
The stories are supposed to be related by Caeilte mac 
Ronan to St. Patrick as they travel together with their 
companies of followers through the Provinces of Ireland, 
each place at which they stop suggesting to Caeilte 
some reminiscence of the ancient days when Fionn 
and his people were yet alive and when the Fianna 
were in their glory. By one of those fortunate chances 
to which the Irish loved to attribute the preservation 
of their old legends, Caeilte and Oisin, with twice nine 
companions, are supposed to have survived by a hundred 
and fifty years the destruction of their comrades at the 
Battle of Gaura (Gabhra), and after wandering through 
Meath they meet St. Patrick at Drumderg, an old fort 
belonging to Fionn. As Patrick is finishing his 
chanting of the canon, he perceives drawing near 
him a band of enormous men attended by huge 
wolf-dogs, both men and dogs being evidently of 
another age and time. None of the clergy reached 
to the shoulders of the newcomers, and as they came 
up and sat down the priests gazed on them in terror. 
By degrees they take courage to ask their names and 
origin. In a few words Caeilte repUes to these questions, 
and he adds that they, with the Fianna, were sustained 
through life by "the truth that was in their hearts, 
the strength in their arms and the fulfilment in their 
tongues." Patrick grows curious to hear tales of the 
bygone days in which they Uved, but he fears that such 


worldly converse will distract the mind from religion. 
" Were it not for us an impairing of the devout life, 
an occasion of neglecting prayer and of deserting con- 
verse with God, we should feel the time pass quickly as 
we talked with thee, warriors." And again : " Success 
and benediction attend thee, Caeilte, thy tale is to me 
a lightening of spirit and of mind, tell us now another 
tale." This friendly eagerness of the saint to hear 
the old Pagan legends is the key to the whole of this 
long tale. There are none of the contentious and 
wrangling passages which occur in the Ossianic poems 
proper, that is, in those in which Oisin converses with 
St. Patrick. Caeilte and the Saint have the most 
perfect appreciation of and respect for each other, and 
a beautiful courtesy is shown in all their dealings 
together. Patrick's hesitation is allayed by the appear- 
ance of his two guardian angels, who assure him 
emphatically that so far from it being displeasing to God 
that he should hsten to all that the old warriors can tell 
of their former life, he is divinely commanded to write 
down their tales " on tabular poet's staffs and in the 
words of ollaves," because it will be " a pastime to the 
nobles and companies of the latter time to give ear to 
these stories." Thus reassvued, the Saint throws himself 
with zest into the occasion and, having first baptized 
the visitors, he and his band accompany them round 
Ireland, each glen and wood and hillock bringing up 
reminiscences and tales of long ago. 

The tales are of different ages, and gathered evidently 
from many sources ; there is no connection between 
them beyond their subject and the manner of their 
telling : some are brief and fragmentary, others are 
told at great length. At frequent intervals Caeilte 


breaks out into some song which arises naturally out 
of the subject of his tale. These songs are often of 
great beauty and prove a deep and sympathetic love 
of natural scenery. The fairy element enters largely 
into the stories. We have innumerable tales in which 
the Tuatha dd Danann mingle with the concerns of 
the Fenian heroes ; they are no longer inaccessible 
deities set far apart from human life ; they come as 
troops of beautiful half-divine, half-human, beings to 
take their part in it. They are placed on the same 
level with the sons of Milesius as " two tribes that are 
equal ; " they enter into combat with the Fenian 
warriors and can be slain by them, or they can suffer 
death by drowning and in other ways. They fall in 
love with human beings and are wedded to them. We 
learn in the Battle of Ventry that there " was not a 
leader or chief of the Fians of Erin whose wife or mother 
or fostermother was not of the Tuatha d6 Danann ; 
hostages of the Tuatha de Danann are taken by the 
Fenian warriors, and it is even possible to use towards 
them the old Irish custom of " fasting upon them " 
in order to obtain some demand. Like Caeilte himself, 
these fairy people submit themselves to Patrick and 
give the Saint a general command over their hosts ; 
all sense of impossible distance between the race of 
mortals and the fairy people is done away, and " the 
Fianna of Ireland had not more frequent and free 
intercourse with the men of settled habitation than 
with the Tuatha d6 Danann." Very close to earth, 
too, is " the flock-abounding Land of Promise," and 
the birds of that land are constantly heard making 
melody. The Fenian heroes pass in and out of the 
sidh-dwellings, which are no longer confined to one or 


two Special spots, as in the older times, but are thought 
of, as they are thought of by the peasantry to-day, 
as found everywhere beneath the grassy hills and slopes 
or Erin.* 

Towards the close of the " Colloquy " Caeilte and Oisin 
meet again at Tara, and here the remnant of the Fianna 
who had accompanied them " lay their lips to earth 
and die " amid the silent grief of the whole of Ireland. 
It is characteristic of the piece that Dermot mac Cearbhal 
is reigning at Tara, and we thus have three separate 
epochs, that of the Fians, that of Patrick, and that of 
Dermot and Columcille, united together. 

The Battle of Ventry [Cath Finnirdga).— This 
long tale is still familiarly known in the part of Kerry 
in which the scene is placed. It is a comparatively 
modern tale, probably not much older than the oldest 
manuscript in which it is contained, which is of the 
fifteenth century, but it is found in numerous late paper 
manuscripts. It describes an invasion of Ireland by 
Daire Donn, King of the World, accompanied by the 
Kings of France, Greece, India, Spain, Norway, and 
numerous other potentates, in order to avenge the 
dishonour done to the King of France, Bolcan or Vulcan, 
whose wife and daughter had been carried off by Fionn. 
Among the host is a daughter of the King of Greece, 
who is described as " the best woman-warrior who ever 
came into the world," and who has a terrible hand-to- 
hand struggle with Fionn himself. 

The hosts are guided by Glas, a warrior of the Fenian 
band, who had been expelled by Fionn from Ireland 

* Here, as elsewhere, the gods or fairy -folk are regarded by 
the Christian teachers as " demons." 


in consequence of an endeavour he had made to betray 
the Fenian leader to King Cormac mac Airt. He leads 
them round the southern shores of Ireland into Ventry 
Harbour (Finntraigh or " White Strand ") in Co. Kerry, 
which is said to be the property of the King of Spain, 
and there they ride on smooth water, " filling the 
borders of the whole harbour, so that the sea was not 
visible between the boats," the great bark of the King 
of the World sailing first into the harbour. All the 
landing-places in Ireland are said to have had Fenian 
watchmen guarding them, but the watchman of Ventry 
is a son of Bran, son of Febal,* of the Tuatha de Danann, 
and before warning Fionn and his troops — ^who are in 
the north of Ireland — of the arrival of the foreigners, 
he arouses the fairy hosts, who come in great armies, 
led by their chiefs, the gods Lir, Bodhb Derg, etc., to 
attack the hosts of the invaders. 

The foreigners are described as inquiring whether 
these are the armies of the Fianna, and Glas replies : 
" Not so, but they are another troop of the men of Erin 
who dare not be above ground, but live in the sidh- 
brughs (fairy palaces) underground." When the troops 
of Fionn arrive on the scene a lengthened and terrific 
conflict (it lasts for a year and a day) ensues, in which 
the foreigners, who are armed with the most strange 
and venomous weapons, usually get the best of it, in 
spite of a succession of briUiant deeds done by Fionn 
himself and all his chief warriors. The most picturesque 
passage in this long story is that at the close, which 
describes the death of Gael and the lament of Gelges 
(called also Crede), his wife, over his body. The passage 
is, however, only found entire in one copy (Rawl. B. 487). 
* See The Voyage of Bran, Vol I., p. 127. 


" Fergus went where Cael was, and asked him how he 
was." " Sad is that, Fergus," said Cael. " I pledge 
my word, that if my breastplate and my helmet were 
taken off me and all my armour, there would not be 
a particle of me that would not fall asunder; but 
I swear that I am more grieved that yon warrior 
that I see should get away aUve to the foreigners, than 
I myself to be as I am. I leave my blessing with 
thee, O Fergus," said Cael, " and take me on thy back 
towards the sea, that I may swim after the foreigner, 
and he will not know that I am not one of his own people ; 
for it would be well with me if that foreigner fell by me 
before my soul were parted from my body." 

Fergus lifted him up and took him to the sea and 
set him swimming after the foreigner ("AUmurach "). 
The AUmurach waited for him till he reached the vessel, 
because he thought he was one of his own people. 
Cael raised himself up, however, and he swimming 
alongside the ship. The foreigner stretched out his 
hand to him. Cael grasped it by the slender wrist 
and closed around it his firm-clenching inseparable 
fingers, and gave a manly truly-valiant tug at him, 
so that he pulled him out overboard. Then they 
clasped their graceful heroes' hands across one another's 
bodies, and went together to the sand and gravel of 
the clear sea, and neither of them were seen from that 
time forth. 

Then came the women of rank and the gentlewomen, 
and the minstrels and gleemen and skilled men of the 
Fianna of Erin to search for and to bury the kings and 
princes of the Fiann, and everyone of them that could 
be cured was carried where he might be healed. And 
Gelges, daughter of Mac Lugach,. the wife of Cael, 


son of Crimthan of the Harbours, came, and over all 
the borders of the land were heard the feeble cries and 
the truly sorrowful sobs that she uttered aloud in 
seeking her gentle mate amongst the slaughter. And 
as she was there, she saw a crane of the meadow and her 
two young, and the wily creature that is called the 
fox, watching her young, and while she covered one 
of the birds to shelter him, he made a dart at the other 
bird, so that she had to stretch herself between the 
birds, and she would rather have got and suffered 
death by the wild beast than that her birds should 
have been killed by him. And Gelges mused greatly 
on this, and she said : "I wonder not that my fair 
lover is so loved by me, since the little bird is in such 
distress about her birds." 

Then she heard a stag on Druim Ruiglenn above the 
harbour, and it was bewailing its hind vehemently 
from one pass to the other. For they had been nine 
years together and had dwelt in the wood that was 
at the foot of the harbour, to wit, Fidh Leis, and the 
hind had been killed by Fionn, and the stag was nineteen 
days without tasting grass or water, lamenting its hind. 
" It were no shame for me," said Gelges, " that I should 
die of grief for Gael, when the stag is shortening his life 
for grief of the hind. . . . Small need is there," 
she said, " for me to bewail Gael and the Clanna 
Baeiscne, for mightily the birds and the waves bewail 

We have to remark in the Battle of Ventry Harbour 
the introduction of matter taken directly from the older 
Guchulain stories. The descent from Ulster of the 
Boy-corps to aid Fionn in the fight, and their brave 
effort and sad destruction, is an incident precisely 


parallel to their defence of Cuchulain during his period 
of exhaustion in the Tain ho Cuailnge. There are 
other examples in the Literature of the transference 
of episodes from the one cycle into the other. The 
Scottish Book of the Dean of Lismore contains a fine 
poetical rendering of this piece. It represents the 
hosts of the Fianna as having accomplished a greater 
slaughter of the foreigners than they are represented 
as having made in the prose account. The leader of 
the foreigners, Daire Donn, is here called sometimes, 
as in the prose version, King of the World ; sometimes 
King of Lochlann. It was usually Greek or Scandi- 
navian princes who were thought of as Kings of the 
World in the Irish tales, but we find the British King 
Arthur sometimes so named. 

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne {Toruig- 
heacht Dhiarmuda agus Ghrdinne). — One of the longest 
and most imaginative tales of the Fenian literature. 
Though we possess no copy of it earlier than the fifteenth 
century, the incidents on which it is founded must have 
been known as early, at least, as the tenth century, 
for in the eulogy supposed to be written for St. Coliun- 
cille by Dalian Forgall, a bard of the sixth and seventh 
centuries, and which in its existing form is believed 
to be of the ninth century, there occurs a gloss which 
quotes this verse : " As Grainne, daughter of Connac, 
said to Fionn — 

There lives one 

From whom I would love a long look. 
For whom I would give the whole world 
0,_Son_ofJV[ary ! though it be a privation 1 " 


This quatrain evidently alludes to the love of Grainne 
for Diarmuid, which is the subject of this story, and 
shows that the story itself was a famiUar one when the 
tenth-century scribe wrote his glosses and explanations 
on the old poem whose words had already become 
obscure to readers in his own day. Such a chance 
survival as this of a single verse proving the existence 
of a legend centuries before any written version that we 
have of it, should warn us that care must be exercised 
in dating the origin of tales or pieces merely by 
the manuscripts of them that have come down to us.' 
It is especially necessary to remember this in regard 
to the Fenian tales, which seem to have been familiar 
to the people long before they were recognised by the 
professional scribes or admitted into the written litera- 
ture. The tale is told with much simplicity and with 
none of the long adjectival passages which deface a 
portion of Irish prose romance. It describes Fionn's 
intention in his old age to marry again after the loss , 
of his wife, Maighneis, daughter of Garadh mac Moime,* 
and the advice of his friends that he should wed Grainne, 
the young daughter of Cormac mac Airt, King of Tara. 
Fionn agrees, and although since the Battle of Cnucha 
there had been constant enmity between Cormac and 
Fionn, the King consents to the old man's wooing of his 
daughter, and for this purpose he comes with a troop 
of his foremost warriors to Tara and they sit down 
to the banquet prepared for them by the King in the 
Miodhchuarta or Banqueting Hall of Tara. Now 
Grainne had never seen Fionn, and when her father 

• The matrimonial arrangements of Fionn are exceedingly 
involved ; one MS. mentions five wives, but Maighneis is not 
one of them. We could add others from other accounts. 


had announced to his daughter the Fenian chief's 
intention of marrying her, she had merely repUed : 
" If he be a fitting son-in-law for thee, why should he 
not be a fitting husband and mate for me ? " But 
when she finds that her future husband is " a man older 
than her father," she lays her plan to escape from the 
bargain she has made. " Then Daire ' of the Poems,' 
son of Morna, arose and stood before Grainne, and 
sang her the songs and the verses and sweet poems 
of her fathers and of her ancestors ; and then Grainne 
spoke and asked the Druid, ' What is the thing or 
matter wherefore Fionn is come to this place to-night ? ' " 
" If thou knowest not that," said the Druid, " it would 
be no wonder if I knew it not." " I would like to 
learn it of thee," said Grainne. " Well, then," said 
the Druid, "it is to ask thee as wife and as mate that 
Fionn is come to this place to-night." " It is a great 
marvel to me," said Grainne, " that it is not for Oisiri 
that Fionn asks me, for it would be fitter to give me 
to such as he than to a man that is older than my father." 
" Say not that," said the Druid, " for were Fionn to 
hear thee, he himself would not have thee, neither 
would Oisin dare to take thee." 

Grainne then inquires the names and status of each 
of the guests, and she sends to her Grianan or women's 
house for a chased goblet which she fiUs with medicated 
wine and sends round the table, putting the larger 
number of the guests into a deep sleep. While the others 
are unconscious she approaches Oisi'n and Diarmuid 
O'Duibhne, offering herself alternately to each as wife, 
provided that either will take her away from Fioim. 
They both stoutly refuse ; and Grainne then puts Diar 
muid under those " heavy DruidicaJ bonds,' or geasa 


from obeying which there was believed to be no escape 
for a true hero, to take her away that night; the 
unwilhngness of Diarmuid being shown in every way 
when at last he is obliged to obey. The rest of the tale 
describes their wanderings and their pursuit by Fionn, 
with the efforts made by their friends among the Fianna 
to arrange for their escape. 

The character of Grainne is an uncommon one in 
Irish Literatiire. She is selfish, frivolous, and Ught- 
minded ; the contrast between her vain and coquettish 
disposition and Diarmuid's noble conduct towards her 
is very weU brought out. Although she obUges Diar- 
muid to sacrifice his honour and renown, and his place 
in the Fenian forces for her, the Ughtness of her affection 
is shown by her consent to marry Fionn, from whom 
she had fled, and who had compassed the death of 
Diarmuid, immediately she was free to do so. It is 
curious that a very unfavourable opinion of women 
should be ascribed to Grainne's father, Cormac. Among 
the dicta with which he is credited is the following 
on women. " I know them, but I cannot describe 
them. Their counsel is foolish, they are forgetful of 
love, headstrong in their desires, fond of folly, prone 
to enter rashly into engagements — of much garruUty. 
Until evil be good, until the sun hide his Ught, until 
the stars of heaven fall, women shall remain as we have 
said. Woe to him, my son, who desires or serves a 
bad woman, woe to everyone who has got a bad wife ! '*' 
The opinion held of Grainne by the Fenian troops is 
shown by the reception they accorded her when, not 
long after Diarmuid's death by the treachery of Fionn, 
he goes to seek her out, and " left not plying her with 
sweet words and loving gentle discourse, until he brought 


her to his will, . . When the Fians of Erin saw their 
old chief and Grainne coming towards them in that 
guise they gave one shout of derision and mocking at 
her, so that Grainne bowed her head with shame. 
' We trow, O Fionn,' quoth Oisin, ' that thou wilt keep 
Grainne well from henceforth.' " 

We should Hke to draw attention to the close 
similarities that exist between portions of this tale 
and that of Tristrem and Iseult (Isolda). They are 
too remarkable to be explained except by the supposition 
that both derived, in part at least, their inspiration 
from Ireland. It will be remembered that Iseult 
lived in Dublin, and that it was there that Tristrem or 
Tristan (Pictish, Drostan ?) sought her as bride for the 
aged king Mark, who was his uncle. In both cases 
it is the woman who tempts the man to unfaithfulness, 
and the man for a long time resists ; in both they fly 
into the forests and wander from hiding to hiding, and 
in both they are helped by a faithful hound. As the 
love-philtre binds the lovers together in a bond they 
are powerless to break, so the " love-spot " of Diarmuid, 
if seen by a woman, cannot fail to awaken a passion 
of affection. He is on this account called Diarmuid 
na m-han, or " Dermot of the Women." In both stories, 
also, the lover's passion is expressed with a force and 
sentiment found elsewhere in no part of the literature 
of contemporary Europe. The atmosphere of the 
story of Tristrem and Iseult is, like that of the Fenian 
tales, one of sylvan pleasures and the chase rather 
than of war and turmoil. We can hardly refrain from 
imagining that this tale of Iseult's love, whose passion 
and intensity so caught the imagination of the mediaeval 
world that it may justly be styled the first love-story 


of modern Europe, arose out of similar conditions and 
about the same period as that of the famous but less 
widely known story of Grainne. There is, at least, 
no doubt that at a time when as yet the attention of 
heroic literature elsewhere was centred upon themes 
of war or bravery, or concerned itself with religious 
subjects, Ireland had evoked from her own imagina- 
tion a series of the most touching and tender tales of 

The episode of the death of Diarmuid has become 
classic. Diarmuid being a foster son of Angus of the 
Brugh and brought up in the company of the gods, was 
not subject to the natural ills of life. Like Achilles, 
he was vulnerable only in the heel, and in the popular 
traditions of his death, after having killed the boar 
of Ben Gulban, he is bidden by Fionn to measure the 
length of the hide. This he did by pacing the skin 
from the head to the tail, but Fionn, who was deter- 
mined on his death, required him to measure i^ a second 
time in the contrary direction, and in walking against 
the bristles his foot was pierced by one of them, and 
of this he died. In the longer story he dies of wounds 
inflicted by the boar in the chase, to which he had been 
incited by Fionn, who was his own house-guest at the 
time, an<i who knew that geasa or prohibitions had been 
laid upon Diarmuid by the god Angus, his foster-father, 
that he never should hunt a boar. 

As he lies in the agonies of death, Fionn and his 
followers come up and gaze upon Diarmuid. " It Ukes 
me well to see thee in this phght, O Diarmuid," said 
Fionn ; " and I grieve that the women of Erin are not 
now gazing upon thee ; for thy excellent beauty is 
turned to ugUness, and thy choice form to deformity." 


" Nevertheless it is in thy power to heal me, Fionn," 
said Diarmuid, " for when the noble gift of divination 
was bestowed upon thee at the Boyne, it was given 
thee that to whomsoever thou should'st give a drink 
out of the palms of thy hands, should be restored to 
youthfulness and health from any sickness that might 
happen to him at the time." For a long time Fionn 
refuses to fetch the drink that Diarmuid craves, 
but he is at last forced through shame, and because 
of the urgency of his followers, to go and look for 

" I know no well whatever upon this mountain," 
quoth Fionn. 

" That is not true," said Diarmuid ; " for but nine 
paces from thee is the best well of pure water in the 

Then Fionn went to the well, and raised the full of 
his two hands of the water ; but he had not returned 
more than half-way when he let the water run down 
through his hands, and he said that he could not carry 
the water. 

" I swear," said Diarmuid, " that it was by thine own 
will thou didst let it run away." 

A second time Fionn went for water, but when he 
had come about the same distance, a thought of Grainne 
came to him, and he let the water trickle through his 
hands. Then Diarmuid let fall a piteous sigh of anguish 
when he saw that. 

" I swear before my arms," said Oscar, grandson 
of Fionn, " that if thou bring not the water speedily, 
Fionn, only one of us twain shall leave this hill alive." 
Because of that speech which Oscar made, Fionn returned 
to the well a third time, and brought the water to 


Diarmuid ; but as he came up the hfe parted from the 
body of Diarmuid. Then the company of the Fians 
of Erin that were on the spot raised three great exceeding 
mighty shouts, wailing for Diarmuid O'Duibhne, and 
Oscar looked fiercely and wrathfuUy upon Fionn, and 
he said that it was a greater pity that Diarmuid should 
be dead than were it he himself who had perished, and 
that the Fianna had lost their mainstay of battle through 
his death." 

Ben Gulbain (AngUcised Ben Bulban) is a long low 
mountain between Roscommon and Sligo, but Scotland 
also claims to possess the spot on which Diarmuid died. 
There is a Tor Gulbin in the braes of Lochaber, but his 
grave is pointed out in Glenshee in the eastern part of 
Perthshire. He was, in fact, a semi-divine personage, 
a re-incarnation of Angus Og, the god of Youth and 
Beauty, and he is the Adonis of the Gael. From the 
accident of the name of his grandfather he became 
identified with the district of Corca Ui Dhuibhne in 
Kerry, but he seems to have been of the tribe of the 
Decies. The traditions of him have, however, become 
associated with the south-west of Ireland, where he 
is still most vividly remembered, and some of his 
genealogies connect him with Munster.* A poetical 
rendering of this tale found in Scotland gives the more 
popular account of the death of Diarmuid from a 
prick of the bristle in the foot when measuring 
the boar's skin backward. The account of Fionn's 
refusal to bring water to the dying man is, however, 

* The Campbells of Argyllshire are called, fancifully, " Clann 


Among the more popular Fenian tales and ballads 
are the following : — 

The Little Brawl at Allen. 

The Battle of Cnoc an Air. 

The Chase of SUabh Guilleann. 

The Pursuit of the GioUa Decair. 

The Festivities at the House of Conan of Ceann Sleibhe. 

The Enchanted Fort of the Quicken Tree. 

The Adventures of the Lomnochtan of SUeve RiSe. 

The Enchanted Cave of Keshcorran. 

The Kern of the Narrow Stripes. 

The Carle of the Coat. 


Ossianic Poetry. 

The poetry belonging to the Ossianic literature may 
be roughly divided into two parts : the long ballads, 
which frequently contain the same incidents as those 
found in the prose pieces, and the shorter lyrics found 
interspersed in the prose narrations, and particularly 
in the "Colloquy," or else detached as separate poems. 
It is only the long descriptive ballads that can properly 
be called Ossianic. The larger number of them are 
supposed to be composed by Oisin, Fionn's son, and 
take the form of dialogues carried on between him and 
St. Patrick, but others are simple lays uttered in con- 
nection with the events out of which they take their 
rise. Fionn was regarded quite as much in the light 
of a poet as of a warrior, and one of the earliest and 
most charming poems found in Gaelic Literature is his 
lyric " In praise of May," which is said to have been 
written in his youth to test his learning. It is found 
both separately and at the close of " The Boyish Exploits 
of Fionn."* 

Duanaire Finn. — Two collections, one made by 
Irish scribes early in the seventeenth century, the other 
by a Scottish ecclesiastic early in the sixteenth century, 
have, fortunately, preserved for us a number of the 
ballads ; others are found separately and are contained 

* Textbook, Part I., pp. 225-6. 


ii;i a multitude of manuscripts, mostly of modern date 
(i.e., from the fifteenth century onward), scattered 
throughout the country. These two collections, which 
we may consider together, are known as the Duanaire- 
Finn, or Poem Book of Fionn, and the Book of the 
Dean of Lismore. The former was written, according 
to notes on the margin, by three different scribes at 
Louvain during the years 1626-27 for a certain Captain 
Somhairle or Sorley MacDonnell, who was probably 
serving in the Netherlands at that time. It is now 
preserved in the Franciscan Library, Dublin. The 
poems must have been collected in Ireland and tran- 
scribed for him into a book which also contains, among 
other matter, a copy of the prose " Colloquy with the 
Ancient Men " and another Fenian ballad. Several 
of the poems in this collection do not seem to exist 
elsewhere, so that we have special cause to commend 
the love of his native literature shown by this Irish 
soldier on foreign service. 

Few of them are ascribed to Oisin ; they are usually 
supposed to be spoken by Fionn himself or by Caeilte 
or Goll mac Morna. It is possible that they are older 
than the Ossianic ballads proper, as many of the poems 
refer to Goll, and they represent him in an altogether 
more favourable light than that under which he appears 
in the poems ascribed to Oisin. They show Uttle sign 
of that grotesque element which marks the later ballads ; 
Conan, the comic figure of the more modem poems, 
being here represented as a brave warrior and faithful 
friend. Nor is there any sign at all in them of the 
contentious wrangling between Oisin and St. Patrick, 
which is the most marked feature of the ballads ascribed 
to the latter poet. 


There is a greater seriousness about these earUer poems 
than in those of a later age ; the bombastic element 
does not take so large a place. The heroes are still 
regarded as men of renown, whose history is dignified 
and grave ; later they often degenerate into merely 
comic figures, whose exploits are designed chiefly as a 
pastime or to raise a sociable laugh around the turf 
fire on a winter's night. 

The Irish collection contains, in addition to the true 
Fenian lays, a large number of poems loosely connected 
with the history of the Fians, but strictly deaUng with 
the mythological cycle. These are of peculiar interest, 
as they contain allusions and traditions otherwise 
unknown to us. Such is the curious poem of the 
Crane-Bag which carried the treasures of Manannan, 
or the poem of the Hunt of Baler's Pig, or the still 
more interesting " Song of Fionn's Shield," which 
carries the history of this weapon back to the pre- 
historic Battle of Moytura. 

The battles in which the shield played a conspicuous 
part are related, and the great personages are named 
to whom it successively belonged. Among them were 
the Dagda, Tadhg, s. of Nuada, Cumhall, and finally 
Fionn himself, by whom a long series of battles were 
fought with it. Among them are said to have been 
thirty-five battles outside Ireland, and eighteen gained 
over the Tuatha d€ Danann. 

The Book of the Dean of Lismore. — ^The second 
collection of which we have to speak is that made by 
Sir James M'Gregor, Dean of Lismore, Argyleshire, 
about the year 1512, and called from this circumstance 
the " Book of the Dean of Lismore." The poems were 


collected in the Western Highlands and are of the same 
type as those preserved in Duanaire-Finn ; together 
they form a great corpus of Fenian poetry. The Irish 
collection is written in middle Irish with the spelling 
somewhat modernised, but retaining the older spelhng 
in some places ; the twenty-eight Ossianic poems found 
in Argyleshire were Written down by the Dean in the 
Roman character of the fifteenth century, but the 
spelhng is phonetic. This, while it is valuable as 
preserving the pronunciation of the words, made the 
manuscript a difficult one to decipher, especially as 
it contained many obsolete words. Some of the poems 
are in pure Irish, some in pure Scotch Gaehc, and 
others are in a mixed dialect and preserve the Irish 
or Scottish idiom according to the closeness with which 
the writers kept to the written form of the ballad. 
Of the purely Irish origin of many of the poems there 
can be no doubt. There are productions by such 
well-known Irish bards as Tadhg 6g O'Higgin (d. 1448), 
Muireadach O'Daly, called Muireadach Albanach, or 
" Murray the Scotchman " (d. about 1224), and several 
others of the O'Daly family ; and there are copies of 
poems found in the Irish annals, some of them attributed 
to very early writers, such as the Lay of Queen Gorm- 
liath, lamenting the death of her husband, Niall 
Glunduth, or " Black-knee," who died early in the tenth 
century. There are several poems in this Scottish 
collection which are either entirely or in part identical 
with copies known in Ireland. Such are the poems 
on the Battle of Gaura and on the Hill of the Fair 
Women [Sliabh na m-han fionn). The use of the word 
" sliabh " is a sign, if any were needed, of the direct 
Irish origin of this piece, for it is never used in Scotland 


to signify a mountain, " Beinn," anglicised " Ben," 
being the invariable Scottish word. A very amusing 
poem also found in Duanaire Finn is that which describes 
the efforts of Caeilte to obtain from King Cormac the 
release of Fionn mac Cumhall from the confinement 
in which he held him, by capturing two of every sort 
of beast and fowl known at that time in Ireland. This 
duty had been imposed on him by the monarch of 
Ireland as the only condition on which his chief's release 
could be procured. The King believed that he had 
demanded an impossible task, and it WcLS indeed only 
by extraordinary efforts that Caeilte succeeded in driving 
before him to Tara his modern Noah's Ark of birds 
and beasts, for as soon as he had got together one set 
of animals he found that the others had dispersed them- 
selves over the plain or taken to flight through the air. 
A short prose version of this legend, which preserves 
what is possibly a complete record of the birds and 
animals known in Ireland at the time it was composed, 
gives a different motive to Caeilte's efforts. Here it 
was Grainne who insisted on the apparently impossible 
task being accomphshed before she would consent to 
marry Fionn, whom she disliked. 

Among Scottish poetical versions of stories best 
known in Ireland in their prose forms are the Death 
of Diarmuid, the Battle of Ventry, and fragments of 
the Sickbed of Cuchulain. There is more of the minghng 
of the two cycles in these Scottish poems than is usual 
in Ireland. For instance, Emer is, in one poem, made 
to fall in love with one of the Ulster Fians ; and there 
are certain whole poems mixed with the Ossianic 
ballads that belong properly to the Cuchulain period. 
Such are, for instance, the poem on the Death of 



Conlaech, and Conall Cernach's " Lay of the Heads," 
both known also in Irish copies.* 

MacPherson's "Fingal" and "Temora." — When 
MacPherson, in 1762 and 1763, composed his " Fingal," 
and " Temora," which pm-ported to be, and doubtless 
were, founded on fragments of these old ballads learned 
by him in the Highlands, he was much blamed for having 
confused the two cycles of tales and thrown together ideas 
and incidents belonging to distinct periods of composition 
and different historical traditions. But although he 
probably carried this confusion to a degree hitherto 
unknown, he did not do so of set purpose ; he merely 
used all the fragments of legends and poems that had 
come in his way, combining them into long poems 
without any pretence of historical acciu"acy. The 
chief error for which he is to be blamed was that he 
altogether changed the style and character of the poems 
he pretended merely to reproduce, and yet persisted 
in presenting them to the public as old Gaehc ballads 
collected by himself in the Highlands ; while, in fact, 
they were original poems composed by him upon 
subjects suggested by the old floating traditions still 
aUve in his day among the Gaelic-speaking people, and 
with some fragments of which he had become famihar 
in travelling through the West of Scotland and 
the Isles. His work had the merit of attracting 
attention to a great body of tradition existing both in 
Ireland and Scotland which had hitherto only been 
locally known, and of inspiring Gaelic societies and 

* In Ireland it is usually the Tuatha d6 Danann cycle that is 
mixed up with that of the Fians; but confusion between the 
Cuchulain and Fian cycle is not uncommon. 


collectors to rescue the fast-disappearing manuscripts 
in which the tradition had been preserved ; but it had, 
at the same time, the misfortune of presenting these 
ballads to the public in a literary form so radically 
unlike their natural aspect that his poems gave the 
reading world a false idea of the style and contents 
of Gaelic literature. To some ears, the polished and 
high-sounding rhapsodies of "Fingal" and "Temora" 
will appeal more than the sterner and simpler tone 
of the Gaelic ballads ; to others, his compositions will 
seem wearisome and vague. 

There is, however, no danger that in the present day 
these original poems will be mistaken for the com- 
positions of the older bards, and for this increased 
general knowledge of the originals we may largely thank 
MacPherson himself. The publication of his poems 
and the controversy they aroused gave the Ossianic 
poems and the legends of the Fians an interest and value 
which they had never before possessed, even to the 
nations among whom they had their origin. The 
Scottish Highland Society, the Irish Ossianic Society, 
and other bodies either came into existence about this 
time in order to collect and preserve the legends, or 
they used their resources for this purpose ; while a large 
number of private collectors have since then searched 
libraries and cottages for manuscripts or have taken the 
tales down orally from the mouths of the people. 

Age of the Scottish Tradition. — It is impossible 
in the present uncertain state of our knowledge with 
regard to the origin and age of the Fenian legend to 
say at what time it passed over into Scotland. From 
the sixth century onward the connection between the 


North of Ireland and the South-Western Districts and 
Isles of Scotland had been of the closest possible kind. 
The establishment of the Dalriadic princes in Argyle- 
shire, and of St. Columba and his followers at.Iona, 
had been only the first steps in a union which grew closer 
age by age. It was strengthened not only by constant 
intercourse, but by frequent inter-marriages between 
the princes of the powerful and almost independent 
Celtic dynasty of the Lords of the Isles, who ruled in the 
Western Highlands, from the twelfth to the sixteenth 
century, with daughters of the great Irish houses of 
the North of Ireland. At the marriage of one of the 
most powerful Lords with a lady of the Irish family 
of O'Cathan towards the close of the thirteenth century, 
tradition says that twenty-four families from Ulster 
settled in the Scottish Highlands, and at a later date, 
a scion of the House of the Isles acquired land in Ireland 
and founded the Antrim branch of the family. It 
seems reasonable to suppose that it was during the time 
of this later intercourse, that is, from the thirteenth 
century onward, rather than in the sixth and seventh 
centuries, that the tradition of the Fianna became 
rooted in Scotland. Only a few stories belonging to the 
Cuchulain cycle, such as the Death of Conlaech and 
the Tragical Death of the Sons of Usnach, were invented 
in Scotland, or rooted themselves there and became 
localised in various spots ; but the whole Fenian cycle 
in its historical outline appears to have been known, 
though the folk-stories underwent special late develop- 
ments in the two different countries. For a very long 
period, from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, 
just when the expansion of the Fenian legend was most 
rapidly going on and manuscripts containing the poems 


and legends were multiplying, the literary connection 
between Ireland and Western Scotland was of the 
closest kind. Many well-known bards and minstrels 
and several heads of bardic schools are mentioned in 
the Annals as having been chief preceptors or poets 
of Erin and Alba, i.e., of Ireland and Scotland, and 
the careers of men like Muireadach Albanach or Giolla 
Brighde mac Conmidhe, show how constantly these 
teachers and poets travelled to and fro between the 
two countries. Among the men holding this distin- 
guished position were Maclose O'Daly (d. 1185), O'Carroll 
the blind minstrel (d. 1328), Tadhg 6g O'Higgin (d. 1448), 
and Tadhg O'Coflfey (d. 1554). 

The hereditary bards and ollavs of the Macleans 
were O'Neills of the North of Ireland, and the M'Vurichs, 
who occupied a similar position in the family of the 
Clanranalds, were of Irish descent, and had received 
their education in Irish Colleges of poetry and scribal 
learning. A large number of manuscripts and poems 
bear the names of Irish scribes and poets, and the oldest 
of the Gaelic manuscripts preserved in Edinburgh are 
written in Irish Gaelic and in the Irish character. 
Through a part of this period, those students who 
desired to perfect themselves in writing and in the 
knowledge of their day, appear to have resorted to the 
Irish schools. 

Tha Ossianic Ballads. — It is probable that most of 
the long ballads which form the Ossianic Poems proper 
are later than and are formed upon the prose tales on 
the same subjects, and that these again come later in 
time than the simple narrative lays. The dialogue 
form, into which most of them are thrown, is much less 


dignified than the earHer style of plain narration, and 

the actual story is constantly interrupted by disquisitions 

on the part of Oisin, who compares in a petulant tone the 

excellence of the household and hospitality of Fionn 

with the privations endured and enforced by the monks, 

while St. Patrick rephes by extolling the happiness 

of heaven into which, he says, the Fenian warriors, 

on account of their Pagan beliefs, cannot enter. 

These comparisons lead to a constant wrangling between 

the Christian Saint and the Pagan warrior which is 

quite unlike the deference shown to St. Patrick by 

Caeilte in the prose " Colloquy with the Ancient Men." 

Passages of this kind occupy so large a place in these 

poems that it is necessary to give a specimen. 

In the poem known as " The Colloquy of Oisin and 

Patrick " [Agallamh Oisin agus Phadraig) the old hero 

begins by recounting the feats of his companions in 

the old time, and bewails his own loneliness and the 

mournful and quiet life he is now living among the 

clergy, where fasting and the ringing of church bells 

have replaced the great feasts and the outdoor life of 

the Fenian epoch. Some of the stanzas in this poem 

are very smooth and charming. 

" I have heard music sweeter far 
Than hymns and psalms of clerics are ; 
The blackbird's pipe on Letterlea, 
The Dord Finn's waiUng melody.'* 

The thrush's song of Glenna-Scal, 
The hound's deep bay at twiUght's fall, 
The barque's sharp grating on the shore. 
Than clerics' chants delight me more." 

* " Do chualas ceol ba bhinne na bhur g-ce61 
Gidh m6r mholas tu an chUar ; 
Sgaltarnach loin Leitreach Laoi, 
'S an faoidh do ghnidh an Dord Fhiann." 


He then recounts the battles of Fionn and bewails 
the death of the heroes, their hounds, and their followers, 
and he says, if Fionn were alive he, Oisin, would speedily 
abandon the clerics and their prayers and follow once 
more the wild deer with the dogs through the glen. 
He asks Patrick to pray that Fionn and the Fenians 
may enter heaven, but Patrick stoutly refuses to offer 
any petition for Fionn, and says that he is bound fast 
in hell with all his companions. This leads to a violent 
altercation, Oisin asserting that no bonds could hold 
one so mighty as Fionn, nor would his followers permit 
him to he in pain for a single instant. When this dies 
down Oisin begins again by enquiring whether the 
hounds of the heroes will be let into heaven. 

TeU me in confidence, O Priest, 

If Fionn is left without, at least. 

Will they let Bran and Sgeolan in 

Those gates of heaven fast shut on Fionn ? 
Patrick repUes : — 

Old man, who lackest grace and sense 

From whom I get no recompense, 

The courts of heaven and heaven's King 

Will never let these creatures in. 

And so the interminable discourse goes on. Patrick, 
as a rule, is represented as a hard and stern old man 
lacking in kindliness and sympathy, but fine words are 
occasionally put into his mouth, as when he declares 
with dignity : 

"It is my King who made the heavens, 
It is He who gives might to the hero. 
It is He that created the universe, 
It is He that showers the blossoms on the trees." 

This poem may be taken as a general model upon 
which many of the longer Ossianic ballads are formed, 


Lyric Poems. 

There are found interspersed in the prose narratives 
of all this period, as well as separately, a great number 
of charming lyrics, lullabies, hunting-songs, and poems 
in praise of natural scenery. A good number of these 
pieces occur in " The Colloquy," or are connected with 
the names of the Fenian heroes or with their deeds, 
and may fitly be classed with the Ossianic literature. 
It will be convenient here to throw into the same 
chapter some other poems by unknown authors which 
belong to the period with which we are deahng. There 
seems to have been a large amount of genuine poetry 
produced, some portions of which have grown out of, 
or been introduced into, prose narratives, such as lives 
of saints, fairy legends or folk-lore and Fenian tales, 
while others seem unconnected with any prose recital. 
Caeilte's Hymn to the Island of Arran in Scotland 
which occurs in the " Colloquy " is full of descriptive 
power. It would seem that from Lammas-tide (called 
in Ireland Lughnasadh, or the feast of the god Lugh) 
until " the call of the cuckoo from the tree-tops in 
Ireland " the battalions were accustomed to repair 
to the Isle of Arran for hunting. Caeilte in describing 
this island to St. Patrick becomes eloquent of its delights. 
" More melodious than all music ever heard were the 
voices of the birds as they rose from the billows, and 
from the coast-line of the island, thrice iifty flocks of 


winged fowl encircled her, clad in gay brilliance of every 
colour," he begins, and then he breaks forth into this 
lay : — 

" Arran of many stags, the sea her very shoulders washes, 
Island that feeds whole companies, among whose ridges blue 

spears redden. 
Skittish deer are on her mountain peaks, soft blae-berries 

among her moving undergrowth. 
Cool water flowing in her streams, and mast upon her russet 


He goes on to describe the search of the greyhounds 
and hunting dogs amongst the thickets, the crimson 
crop of berries on the rocks, the smooth grass of the 
glades and the leaping of the fawns over the crags. 
The poem ends as follows : 

" Right pleasant their condition {i.e., the wild fruits and 
animals and the vessels sailing past the Isle) when fair weather 
sets in ; under her river brinks lie the trout, round her grand 
cliffs to one another wheeling sea-gulls call ; at such a time as 
this, right pleasant is the Isle."* 

Elsewhere the cold of the weather and the deep snow, 
often commented upon in Irish writings, calls forth a 
song from Caeilte : 

" Cold is the winter, the wind is risen, the high-couraged 
unquelled stag is on foot ; 'tis bitter cold to-night the mountain 
o'er, yet still bells out the ungovernable stag. Well sleeps the 
ruddy deer stretched out upon the rock, hidden from sight 
as though beneath the soil, all in the latter end of chilly night." f 

He compares his own old age to the chill cold of 
winter, and he ends by bewailing the Fianna, once so 
bold and vigorous, now lying dead and cold beneath 
the ground. 

* Silva Gadelica, i., p. 102 ; ii., p. 109. 
■f Ibid i., p. 172 ; ii., p. 192. 


Very charming also are the poems in praise of Benn 
Edair, or Howth Hill, a headland stretching along the 
outer side of Dublin Bay, and a favourite haunt of the 
heroes. One of these begins as follows : 

" The loveliest hill on Erin's ground, 
Bright as its sea-gulls circling round. 
Sore grief to me my thoughts to tear 
From old Benn Edair, grave and fair." 

These poems show, like those of an earlier age, a pure 
delight in natural things, a love which lingers round its 
object, giving to every aspect of it a meaning and poetic 
significance. The feeling for symbolism is strong in 
Ireland. The winds, for instance, are symbolised by 
colours, and a mediaeval poem describes the character 
and destiny of a child as being fixed by the point from 
which the wind blew at its birth. Even states of the 
mind are characterised in the same way ; there are red, 
white and green mart37rdoms in ecclesiastical literature, 
and by these different kinds and degrees of self-sacrifice 
are designated. In a long poem full of charming fancy 
the trees of the forest are rehearsed in turn, and to each 
a poetical significance is attached. The woodbine is, 
curiously enough, called the " Monarch of the forests 
of Inisfail," and this because none may hold it captive, 
while in its embrace it hugs the toughest trees ; " no 
effort of a feeble ruler this." The noble willow is 
sacred to poems, and may not be burned, " within his 
bloom bees are a-sucking, to each his little prison-house 
is dear " ; " the graceful tree with berries called the 
rowan is the wizards' tree ; " " the precious and 
low-sweeping apple-bough is a tree ever decked in 
bloom of white, against whose fair head all men put 


forth the hand," and so on through all the trees of the 

One of the finest of these long poems is the splendid 
" Hymn to Morning " which occurs in a mediaeval Life 
of St. Cellach, of Killala. It purports to have been 
written at the rising of the sun on the morning on which 
he was to be put to death. The Saint had been seized 
by his murderers the day before his death and carried 
by them into the deepest recesses of the forest, where 
he was shut up in the hollow trunk of a tree, there to await 
his end. His murderers, who had been his former 
friends and fellow-pupils, but who had been induced by 
bribes to desert and slay him, sit in watch outside his 
temporary prison. His fears and his dread of death 
are vividly described, his sleepless night and early 
awakening, his dreams of flight, and his final submission 
to his predestined fate. With the first dawn of day 
he looks out only to see, sitting on the branches above 
him, the raven, the kite, and the scall-crow, sure har- 
bingers of his approaching death ; on seeing him, a 
wolf on the track of his blood slinks back amongst the 
brackens. " My dream of Wednesday night was true," 
said Cellach, " four wild dogs {i.e., his four companions) 
rent me and dragged me through the brackens ; adown 
a precipice I fell, and never more came up." Then, 
as the rising sun burst forth and flooded the earth with 
splendour, he forgot his misery for the moment and 
broke into a noble farewell hymn to greet the dawn of 
his final day of life. 

" Hail to the morning fair, that falls as a flame on the green- 
Hail, too, to Him who sends her, the Morn ever fruitful in 


Morning resplendent and proud, the brilliant sun's little sister. 
Hail to thee. Dawn, thrice-hail, that lightest my book of the 

He addresses the wild birds and beasts that are 
waiting for their victim, and he ruefully suggests that 
it was perhaps " the tiny wren, scant of tail, who is 
piping a prophetic lay " from the branches above his 
head, who had betrayed him to his enemies. The 
quatrains describing his capture by his old fellow- 
students, and their hurried and secret journey into the 
depths of the forest might have suggested to Keats 
the famous lines in his poem of Isabella, or the Pot 
of Basil.* They are as follows : — 

" Wednesday night past I saw visions, the wild dogs troubled 
my slumbers, 
Hither and thither they dragged me, through russet ferns of 
the coppice. 

'Twas in a dream I saw it, to the lonely green glen men bore me, 
Four men carried me thither, I saw onlythree returning." 

Lullabies and laments are also common and appear 
to have been set to old airs suited to their plaintive 
melody. The lament of Fionn, the old man, over 
the bier of his grandchild, Oscar, is one of these ; it 
sometimes forms part of the ballad of the Battle of 
Gaura, in which Oscar was killed, and is sometimes 

" Beloved of my beloved, beloved of my beloved. 
Child of my own child, white-sldnned and slender." 

A weird and lovely melody which has the sound of a 

* " So the two brothers and their murdered man, rode past 
fair Florence," etc. — Stanza xxvii. 


swing among the trees or of the night-wind sighing 
round the house is the old fairy hillaby, which begins : — 

" My cause of merriment, soft and sweet art thou 
Of the race of Coll and Conn art thou ; 
My cause of merriment, soft and sweet art thou 
Of the race of Conn art thou. 

My soft cause of merriment, my soft rushes. 
My lovely rock plant. 

Were it not for the charm that is on your foot 
We would hft you with us." 

These are onty examples of a copious literature of 
lyric verse. 


Classical and Mediaeval Adaptations. 

We must briefly refer to the Classical and Mediaeval 
literature, of which versions exist in Irish. These are 
seldom mere translations into Gaelic ; they are, as a rule, 
adaptations freely condensed or re-arranged, and they 
often become virtually new tales founded upon the 
foreign or classical model, and embodying the more 
dramatic passages, but throwing the story into a novel 
form and telling it in a way more congenial to the tastes 
of an Irish audience than the original form would have 
been. In fact, while the pith of the ancient story is 
retained, so far as incident and matter is concerned, 
the tale has been changed in style into an Irish romance, 
exhibiting many of the features of a native Gaelic story. 
This curious transmutation would lead us to the con- 
clusion that it was customary to recite these classical 
stories just in the same manner as the native romances 
were recited, and that it is in this re-modelled form that 
they were afterwards written down. The Tale of Troy, 
The Alexander Saga, The Wanderings of Ulysses, The 
Theban War were well-known in Ireland in the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries, and possibly much earlier. 
Notable Irish heroes, such as Cuchulain, Conall Cernach, 
and King Brian Boromhe were frequently compared to 
Hector, Achilles, or Alexander the Great, and it seems 
very probable that certain incidents in the Northern 
romances, such as the making of Cuchulain's shield, 
the Hero's Light that in moments of intense excitement 
played about his head, or the description by the Look-out 


Men* or Heralds of the appearance of the battaUons 
assembling before a battle in the Tain and elsewhere, 
are modelled directly upon Greek parallels. If this 
is so, it leads to the conclusion that the classical tales 
were known at a considerably earlier date than the 
fourteenth century. It is probable that the Greek 
stories were known chiefly through Latin versions ; 
the writer of the Irish version of the Saga of Alexander 
the Great and Philip of Macedon frequently quotes 
Orosius as his chief authority and the Irish Tale of Troy 
is adapted from the Latin of Dares Phrygius. Possibly 
old French versions of some of the Classical Tales may 
also have been known. The Latin tradition has always 
been strong in Ireland ; up to the sixteenth or seven- 
teenth century Latin and Irish were equally the language 
of men of any pretensions to culture and were used for 
the ordinary purposes of verbal or written communi- 
cation between them. 

Both the omissions and additions to the original tale 
are instructive. One of the most curious is the tendency 
to minimise or altogether to eliminate from the stories 
the supernatural element. The poetic and impressive 
background of the Greek epic in which, from a vast 
and exalted world of their own, the gods and goddesses 
held their councils separate from but interested in the 
doings and wars of men, is altogether omitted. In 
consequence, the contest shrinks into an ordinary warfare 
between heroic hosts. This is especially noticeable 
in the Irish version of the .iEneid, in the whole course 
of which the Immortals hardly appear at all, while in 

* Comp. Iliad xviii. with T. B. C, Windisch's Ed. 1. 261 1-2625. 
The description of Cuchulain's Distortion is transferred back 
bodily into the Irish Tale of Troy, Ir. Texte, ii., pt. I., p. 115. 
Or lUad, ii., with T. B. C, Windisch's Ed. xxv., 1. 5010-5725, 
or Mesca Ulad, pp. 21-41, etc. 


the Troy Tale they take no active part in the contest. 
Like the native gods of the Tuatha de Danann in the 
later period, they have dwindled, in the conception of 
the Irish story-teller, into the " idols of the Greeks." 
On the other hand we have, as in Irish romance, " Badb 
and the demons of the air " screaming over the slain 
and rejoicing in the slaughter of the battlefield. The 
whole atmosphere of these tales has become infused 
with the Irish spirit. But for the names and incidents 
we might, in reading the Tale of Troy, be reading a 
romance of the Ulster Cycle. We have, for instance, 
many passages filled with that sense of natural beauty 
which pervades Irish writing. In the version 
of the .iEneid from the Book of Ballymote we read, 
when Latinus was entering the Tiber : " Beautiful, 
joyous was the morn, serene was the air, and calm the 
sea. .(Eneas. saw afar off a lovely, sacred grove, close to 
the margin of the shore where issues forth the River 
Tiber. On the clear bosom of the estuary were bird- 
flocks of every sort floating on the surface of the water ; 
it was enough of joy to listen to the varied strains uttered 
by those birds. He saw, too, about the estuary, the 
lovely strand, sandy, beautiful, magnificent."* This 
might have been taken bodily out of an Irish romance. 
Wholly Irish, too, is the display of a hero's- person in 
all the bravery of his best attire before the women, and 
their undisguised admiration of his appearance. As 
Cuchulain appears in his splendour before Queen Meave, 
so Alexander (Paris) arrays himself to come into the 
presence of Helen. " Then Alexander came before 
the lady to show forth his form and habit, his garments 

* Comp. for instance, The Voyage of Teigue, s. of Cian. Sil. 
Gad. ii., p. 389. 


and vesture. An embroidered vesture was that he had 
about him, with adornment of ridged red gold, with 
array of precious stones on the outer side, and within 
against his skin a tunic of silken cloth, with its fringes 
of refined gold. Stately and proud was his tread as 
he advanced to behold the women." (Ir. Texte, ii., p. 81). 

As Etain loved Eochaid before she saw him, so Helen 
and the Athenian women loved Alexander for " his 
fame and eminence spread abroad throughout Europe, 
for his shape and form and joyance beyond all the men 
of the earth, for his splendour and eminence in battle 
and manslaying." In the same manner " the troops 
and assemblies of ladies and the joyous girls of the 
world loved Hector for the noble tales they had heard 
of him, so that they would have left their own countries 
to see and contemplate Hector's form, had not the 
great wars taken him from them. ' ' The Irish transcriber 
recognises no difference in race or character or dress 
between the Trojan heroes and heroines and his own 
Celtic champions. In appearance they are identical 
and in habits they are made to conform. Again, 
matters that would have been passed over as superfluous 
or trivial in the Greek tale are insisted upon in the Irish 
version. For instance, Homeric hterature gives us 
few examples of the pure love-story ; of lovers and love- 
making we hear nothing in the Iliad, though we hear 
of the abduction of Helen and the wifely affection of 
Andromache. But in Ireland, where the pure love- 
story takes a conspicuous place, it is introduced into 
the Classical tale wherever occasion makes an opening. 

A mark of the Irish influence exercised on the tales is 
the introduction of a note of tenderness and chivalry 
quite foreign to the Classic story, but which is of the 


essence of Irish romance. A remarkable instance of 
this is found in the account given of the death of Hector. 
Hector is the prime favourite among Classical heroes 
with Irish writers. The highest praise they can bestow 
upon a brave prince or chieftain is that he was the 
" Hector of his day." This affection is shown in a 
singular manner in the revised version of Hector's death 
in the Troy Tale. The author is not content that his hero 
should fall in open fight with Achilles, still less can he 
reconcile it with his ideas of the chivalry due to a fallen 
foe that he should be ignominiously dragged round the 
walls of Troy. He therefore dehberately alters the 
whole incident, making Hector fall by guile from a 
thrust in the back maliciously dealt by Achilles, who 
is represented as skulking behind a heap of clothes 
when his enemy was unsuspiciously passing by. After 
his death, Hector is said to have been interred with 
honour before the gates of the city " and funeral games 
were held for him." Thus in familiar wise the Irish 
story-teller ends his tale, and he ingenuously adds, 
with a tardy recognition of the advantage of 
" authorities," that his novel and improved version 
will be found in Virgil.* The passage which succeeds 

* The mediaeval Latin versions of the Tale of Troy, and those 
derived from them, are always favourable to Hector and the 
Trojans. Many of the changes mentioned above are suggested 
in the authorities from which the Irish versions were taken, but 
they are amplified and emphasised by the Gaelic story-teller ; 
cf. Dares Phrygius, caps, xxiv., xxv. ; Dictys Cretensis, caps, 
vi., viii. ; and Chaucer, Troilus and Cressida, v., 1. 1558; or 
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V., sc. viii. It would 
seem also, from the similarities in the tone and details, that 
either the twelfth century Roman de Troie of Benoit de Sainte- 
More, or the still more famous Historia Troiana of Guido delle 
Colonne must have been known in Ireland. 


the account of the death of Hector is a charac- 
teristically Irish one. " Sad, in sooth, was the 
waihng and lamentation that night in Troy . . . 
because their hearts' nut, and the bush of safe-guarding, 
their battle-axe of combat, their shield of protection 
and their boundary line against their enemies was gone 
from them. . . . For he surpassed the heroes of 
the world in splendour and dignity, in wisdom and valour, 
in dexterity and affluence, etc." This piling up of 
similes is a peculiarly Gaelic feature. The Classic 
writer evolves a simile and plays with it, presenting it 
under various aspects and pressing out of it all that 
it can be made to yield, but the Irish writer crushes 
together simile after simile, heaping them rapidly upon 
one another to secure a cumulative effect. The similes 
are usually of a stereotyped nature, and in the later 
literature they tend to become fixed " runs," re- 
appearing whenever an appropriate opportunity offers. 
In the early literature they are rare and have not yet 
become fixed, nor are they thrown together in the same 
rapid way.* 

In addition to the Classical tales there are Irish 
medijeval translations of various works well-known in 
the middle ages, among the most important of which 
is a Gaelic version of Sir John Maundeville's Travels, 
made in 1475, by Fingin O'Mahony (d. 1496), and an 
abridgment of the Book of Ser Marco Polo which is found 
in the Book of Lismore. These are, however, of much 
less interest from a literary point of view than the 

* Some of these mediaeval Irish " runs " are very quaint. 
For instance, to express anxiety or anger, it is frequently said 
that the persons under their influence will " exchange a good 
form for an evil form, and beauty for ugliness, and go into 
swoons and fainting-fits of death." 


versions of the Greek and Latin stories, as they show 
few markedly Irish features, and are simply condensed 
reproductions of the original without any wide variations 
of style or matter. Fingin seems to have translated 
from an Enghsh text and the author of the Irish version 
of Marco Polo from the Latin, but the latter condenses 

There are also Irish versions of Turpin's Chronicle, 
Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Southampton, and of a number 
of French and Spanish romances, such as the Triumphs 
of Charlemagne from the French, and Richard and 
Lisarda, a Spanish tale.* The chief general interest 
of these versions of foreign texts is the testimony they 
bear to the fact that from the fourteenth to the six- 
teenth centuries Ireland kept in touch with the literary 
life of the Continent; the large number of Irishmen 
who went for their education to the Universities of 
Spain and France or who repaired to the Irish monas- 
teries in Italy must have fostered an interest in the 
romances and literature of foreign countries. 

Romances founded upon the Arthurian legends or 
dealing in a quite independent way with heroes and 
themes derived from Arthurian tradition are also 
common. Among the best of these are the Queste 
du Saint Gral, The Adventures of the Crop-eared 
Dog, and The Adventures of Eagle Boy. Many of 
these tales show great fertility of invention and 
cqntai.n picturesque and touching passages. It is 
common to find Irish names introduced, as in the 
Crop-eared Dog [Eachtra an mhadhra mhaol) where King 
Arthur is represented as reigning from the " Fort of 
the Red Hall," an evident reminiscence of the Red 
* See Nattlau's lists in Rev. Celt x., pp. 184, 460-61. 


Branch Hall at Emain Macha ; Sir Galahad is the 
hero of this story, and the " crop-eared " dog, who is 
endowed with superhuman intelligence, is his companion 
in a series of marvellous adventures, out of which he 
contrives by his sagacity and powers to conduct Sir 
Galahad in safety. 


The Last of the Annalists. 

The Irish may justly be described as a nation of 
annalists. The preservation of the tribal records, 
the recording of genealogies, and the committing to 
writing the local or provincial wars and raids, consti- 
tuted from the earliest times the chief care of the 
literary class, who were trained by a long course of 
special studies for this particular work. The Philosophy 
of History was a thing of the future, and the study of 
history from the point of view of a general survey of 
the trend and course of national events can hardly be 
said to have begun ; in the modern sense the historian 
had not come into existence. Nor would he have had 
any place in Ireland up to the seventeenth century, 
or even later, for the consciousness of a united nation 
was not sufficiently strong to make possible the con- 
struction of a record in which the bearing of each parti- 
cular part upon the destinies of the whole country 
should be taken into account. The provincial spirit 
remained strongly marked up to the time of the Stuarts 
at least (it will probably always exist as a dividing line 
in Ireland), and it was only the troubles of the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries that dissolved to a 
certain extent these local separations and brought about 
fresh combinations, poUtical, religious and social, which 
gave for the first time a conception of Ireland as a 
national whole. Possibly the records, as they have 


actually come down to us, better represent the real 
conditions in ancient and mediaeval Ireland than any 
modern history could do. For there remains to us a 
large series of compilations formed out of the tribal 
records, and in the number and fulness of her tribal 
records Ireland can boast a superiority over any nation 
of Europe. From the earliest times each sept and 
province possessed its own genealogist and chronicler, 
whose business it was, before the knowledge of writing, 
to keep in memory, and when writing became common, 
to record in special books, the deeds of the clan and 
its princes and the deaths of its chief lay and ecclesias- 
tical personages. These annalists were held by the tribe 
in the highest honour. They ranked next to the chief 
or head of the clan ; they fed at his table and were 
supported by his bounty ; and they became his coun- 
sellors and representatives in political affairs. The office 
of scribe and genealogist was usually continued in 
certain families, the son succeeding, as a matter of course, 
to the position held by his father, and sometimes several 
members of the same family being associated in the office. 
These men were trained in the bardic schools or under 
some well-known teacher, and they handed on from 
age to age the traditions of their sept. Each annalist 
added to the existing entries the events of his own life- 
time, and until the break up of the tribal customs, the 
records were subjected to a systematic examination 
at annual or triennial gatherings of the tribe or province, 
and were corrected wherever inaccuracies could be 
proved. These official genealogists continued to hold 
their positions in some parts of Ireland up to the middle 
of the seventeenth century, but the disorganisation 
of the clan life and, from the sixteenth century onward. 


the poverty of their patrons, gradually made the official 
scribe more and more rare. Most of the annals which 
remain to us come to an end in the fifteenth century 
or earlier, though a few are continued into the following 
era. We may conclude that after this period the clan 
system was no longer sufficiently organised for the 
yearly entries to be considered of importance. The 
devastation of the country, the uncertainty of land 
tenure, the transference of clan property into the hands 
of strangers, and the general misery and poverty con- 
sequent on these things brought the clan records to an 
end, and with the loss of their position and duties 
the office of tribal historian became extinct. But in 
the seventeenth century there still remained a few men 
who retained the old knowledge of the antiquities and 
history of their country, and who carried on the scribal 
tradition into a more modern age. They were men 
whose learning was profound in their own department, 
and who had in some instances added to the antiquarian 
and genealogical lore of which they were the special 
custodians, a considerable acquaintance with the 
learning of other countries. 

The names and work of the annalists and scribes 
Dugald mac Firbis and Lugaidh and Michael O'Clery 
are so important that they must be dealt with separately. 

Dugald mac Firbis (about 1580-1660) was the last 
of a long family line of historiographers and scribes 
whose names we frequently meet with in the annals, 
accompanied by the memorandum that they were " chief 
historians of the Tir Fiachrach (Tireragh)," " learned 
annalists," and so on. The most important of these 
ancestors was Gilla-Iosa-m6r mac Firbis, the compiler 


of the Book of Lecan, who wrote some time before 1416, 
and who seems also to have partly written the Yellow 
Book of Lecan (Leabhar Buidhe Lecain), so named 
from the district (now Lacken, in the Barony of Tireragh, 
Co. Shgo), in which the family were bred, and where, 
as he himself says, they " wrote books of history, 
annals, and poetry, and kept a school of history." In 
olden times the Mac Firbises had, along with the 
O'Keenes, held an honourable position next to that 
of their Lords, the O'Dowds, chiefs of Tir Fiachrach, 
in N. Sligo. At the inauguration of a chief of the 
family it was the duty of the Mac Firbis who happened 
to be poet of his day to nominate the newcomer and 
to touch him with his wand of office ; at the subsequent 
banquet, he and O'Keene drank together to the honour 
of the chief, and none might drink before them, and to 
them were given the arms and armour and steed of the 
elected Lord. But these days of power and dignity 
had passed ; the lands of the O'Dowds had been reduced 
by family quarrels and by confiscation, and the members 
of the family who remained at Lacken in Dugald's time 
were simple country gentlemen whose plain lives hardly 
needed the services of an hereditary chronicler to recount 
them. Still we find that Dugald was brought up to 
his ancestral profession, and that he was sent to study 
in the schools of the Mac Egans of Ormond, and of the 
O'Davorens at Burren, in Co. Clare. It was probably 
during the time that he was in the former school that 
he copied and thus preserved for posterity those annals 
of Ossory and Leinster of which Dr. O'Donovan has 
published the few surviving fragments.* 

* Fragments of Annals, edited by J. O'Donovan for the Irish 
Archaeological Society, i860. 


In 1645, two years after the death of his father, we 
find Mac Firbis settled in Galway, where he acted as 
tutor to John Lynch, the future author of " Cambrensis 
Eversus," and to Roderick O'Flaherty, then seventeen 
years old, both of whom he evidently imbued with his 
own love of the national antiquarian records. Here, 
in the College of St. Nicholas, he compiled his great work 
on the Genealogies of the Milesian race, a work stiU 
constantly referred to by the Herald's Office in our 
own day to trace the pedigrees of families of Irish 
descent. There is in this extraordinary book hardly 
a branch of the old Irish stock that is not traced up 
to its sources and followed in all its ramifications and 
branches.* A glance at such a work as this shows 
us with what care the Irish genealogical records were 
transmitted and preserved from the earliest times down 
to the seventeenth century. The chief Danish famihes 
settled in Ireland are also given, showing their inter- 
marriages and the names of their descendants. The 
work was completed in 1650. On the Surrender of 
Galway to the Parliamentary forces in 1652, Dr. Lynch 
fled to France, but Mac Firbis went quietly on with 
his work of collecting MSS. and compihng records both 
for his own purposes and for the use of Sir James 
Ware, in whose house at Dublin he resided for some 
time, and for whom he did a great deal of work that 
Ware had not the justice even to acknowledge ; he 
does not once mention his name. 

* The title of this work is " The Branches of Relationship 
and the Genealogical Ramifications of every Colony that took 
possession of Ireland, . . . together with a Sanctilogium 
and a catalogue of the Monarchs of Ireland, etc., compiled by 
Dubhaltach mac Firbisigh of Lecan, 1650." The autograph 
is in the possession of the Earl of Roden. 


On his return to Sligo, after the death of Sir J. Ware, 
he found himself and his companions fallen into an 
evil case. O'Flaherty was in a state of absolute 
destitution, and he himself was not much better off. 
In a note to his genealogies, he says pathetically, 
speaking of the expedition of King Dathi to the Alps : 
"It is no doubt a worldly lesson to consider how the 
Gaels were at that time conquering far and near, and 
that now not one in a hundred of the Irish nobles 
possesses so much of his land as he could be buried in." 
He received no recompense for his great genealogical 
compilation. He says, himself, that he wrote it only 
" to increase the glory of God, and for the information 
of the people in general." It is mournful, indeed, to 
find that the last of the Irish chroniclers fell a victim 
to the hand of a wanton assassin. The old man — 
he was past his eightieth year — was travelhng on foot, 
as it would seem, from his native village in the West of 
Ireland to Dublin. He was resting for the night at a 
small shop in the village of Dunfiin, Co. Sligo, where 
he was attacked and brutally murdered, apparently 
without any provocation whatever, by a young gentle- 
man of the neighbourhood, upon whose licentious 
freedom of behaviour the old chronicler's presence 
served as an unwelcome check. The assassination 
of Dugald mac Firbis closed the annals of a race of 
masters whose genealogical and historical labours have 
preserved to our time the materials upon which all 
future histories of Ireland must be built. 

It will be well to say here a few words about his friend 
and pupil, O'Flaherty. 

Roderic O'Flaherty was born in 1629 or 1630, 


in Moycullen Castle, Co. Galway. On the death of his 
father, when he was only two years old, he became a 
ward of the Crown. He was educated under the father of 
John Lynch in Galway, and studied Irish History under 
Dugald mac Firbis, who was living in Galway at this 
time. His famous book, the Ogygia,* written in Latin 
in 1685, appears to have arisen out of a correspondence 
between himself and John Lynch, then Archdeacon of 
Tuam, on the difi&culties of Irish chronology. In it 
he endeavours by elaborate calculations to reconcile 
the differences in the dates of the Irish records, founding 
his own system upon three ancient poems, which deal 
with the synchronisms of the Kings of Ireland. This 
work, diffuse and uncritical as it is, was the first History 
of Ireland to find its way into the hands of the English 
public. It is dedicated to James, Duke of York, and 
the Enghsh Royal family of the Stuarts is therein 
traced up to the early monarchs of Ireland. He intro- 
duces events from religious and foreign history, and his 
chronology follows the usual tedious Irish system of 
beginning with Sacred and Roman History and passing 
on thence to the affairs of his own country. 

He is said to have written also an " Ogygia Christiana," 
but this is not forthcoming ; there also remains a 
chronographical description of West Connacht from 
his hand. He suffered in his own person all the miseries 
inflicted on the country during the Cromwellian period. 
Though he was a minor at the time, he was deprived 
of his paternal estate at Moycullen, and the Act of 

* The original edition was published in 1685. It was imper- 
fectly translated into English by Rev. James Hely in 1793. 
In 1775 Dr. Charles O'Conor published a vindication of 
O'Flaherty's work in twenty-one Chapters, the last of which 
was left unfinished, 


Settlement of 1662 did not restore his property. By 
two law-suits, in 1653 and 1677, he recovered a small 
part, but the heavy taxation and general poverty of the 
country made it of little use to him. When Edward 
Lhuyd, of Oxford, visited him in 1700 he found him in 
a miserable condition of distress. He describes him 
as " affable and learned," but says that " the late 
revolutions in Ireland had reduced him to great poverty 
and destroyed his books and papers." In April, 1709, 
Sir Thomas Molyneux saw him living in a miserable 
condition at Parke, some three hours west of Galway. 
" I expected," he says, " to have seen here some old 
Irish manuscripts, but his ill-fortune had stripped him of 
these as well as his other goods, so that he has now 
nothing left but some pieces of his own writing, and a 
few old books of history, printed." He was then in 
his eightieth year. He died on April 8th, 1718, and 
was buried at Parke. He was married and had one 
son and some daughters. The son died an officer in 
the Austrian service. 

The O'Clerys.— The learned family of the O'Clerys 
belonged originally to the south-eastern portion of 
Co. Galway, but they were driven from their home 
after the Anglo-Norman invasion. One of them, 
named Cormac, came, sometime before 1382, to Donegal, 
and married the daughter of the hereditary " Ollamh " 
of the O'Donnell's, by whom he had a son. It is from 
this ancestor that Lugaidh (Lewy) O'Clery and his 
two sons were descended. Lugaidh was chief bard 
of Tirconnell about the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, and he died before 1632. He took part in the 
celebrated bardic contest called lomarhhdidh na bhfiledk, 


or the " Contention of the Bards," himself contributing 
four poems, amounting to 1,520 verses. But his most 
important work is his Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, 
which was written down from his dictation by his sons, 
Cucogry or Peregrine and Cairbre O'Clery. The 
original manuscript, written in a beautifully clear hand, 
is in the Royal Irish Academy. 

Cucogry (or Peregrine) O'Clery (d. 1664), son of 
Lugaidh, was born at Kilbarron, Co. Donegal. He owned 
land from the Earl of Annandale, but was dispossessed 
of it in 1632 after an inquisition taken at Lifford, 
his little property being forfeit to the Crown because 
he was a " meere Irishman, and not of English or 
British descent or surname." He was obliged to 
migrate to Co. Mayo, carrying with him his manuscripts 
and books, which in his will, written in Irish and 
preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, he styles 
affectionately " the property the most dear to me that 
ever I possessed in this world." He bequeathed them 
to his sons, Dermot and John, before his death in 1664, 
and they were passed on as a sacred inheritance from 
father to son, until they came down to Patrick (or 
John ?) O'Clery, who brought them to Dublin in 1817. 

The joint work of these two scribes, father and son, 
is their Life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Prince of 
Tyrconnell (1572-1602). This very interesting piece of 
contemporary history relates in a spirited manner and 
with plentiful detail the adventurous life of the last 
of the independent princes of Tyrconnell. Lugaidh 
O'Clery must himself have witnessed many of the 
stirring scenes which he so graphically describes, and 
his work was naturally in large part incorporated into 


the Annals of the Four Masters for the years with which 
it deals. The Life of Red Hugh is of the deepest 
interest ; as a youth he was twice confined in Dubhn 
Castle, and with other young princes of the North he 
made his escape across the Dublin mountains. Once 
he was recaptured and more severely confined ; the 
second time the youths made their way in the depth 
of winter and in bUnding snow, without food and with 
insufficient clothing, to Glenmalure, where they had 
friends. Art O'Neill succumbed to the cold, and 
Hugh Roe himself lost two of his toes through frost-bite. 
His subsequent determined stand against the English, 
his remarkable power in combining the native chiefs, 
and the success that attended their arms, are matters 
of general knowledge ; had it not been for the defection 
of Nial Garbh "Neill the Rough," it seemed at one 
moment as though the EngUsh forces would be driven 
out of the West and North. After the fatal battle 
of Kinsale, O'Donnell set out for Spain to try and 
induce the King to send further troops, but he died there, 
it is said by poison, on September 10th, 1602. He was 
not yet thirty years of age when he died. 

The life of Hugh Roe affords a good example of the 
familiarity of the whole nation with the old legends, down 
to the time of its dispersal, and of the persistence of the 
native tradition. Here in a modern historical tract the 
country bears its old mythological names, just as it 
does in the semi-legendary tales of the Early Kings. 
A district in Galway is spoken of as " the ancient 
province of Sreng, son of Srengan " {i.e., one of the 
chiefs of the Firbolgs) ; Ulster is called " the province 
of Conor mac Nessa ; " the strand near Dundalk is 
Tragh Baile mic Buain. Art Kavenagh is a " certain 


famous hero of the Lagenians (Leinstermen) of the 
race of Cathair mor," and Morann, son of Maen, 
whose mythical collar was supposed to tighten round 
the neck of anyone who uttered a falsehood, is quoted 
as author of the proverb : " There has not been found, 
nor will there be found, a more truthful judge than the 

In spite of the rigorously historic nature of the work, 
the author indulges in an occasional lapse into the old 
rhetorical style of description. In the report of the 
gloom that prevailed among the Irish when Hugh Roe 
was recaptured by the Council, he says, " There were 
many princesses and great ladies and noble white- 
breasted maidens sorrowing and lamenting on his 
account. There were many high-born nobles clapping 
their hands and weeping in secret for him, etc." The 
account of the Battle of the Curlew Mountains, in which 
Sir Conyers Clifford was mortally wounded and the 
English forces driven back, might have been taken 
direct from the Battle of Magh Rath ; it exhibits the 
same lists of alliterative adjectives and the same high- 
flown method of description. So also in the description 
of Hugh O'Donnell, father of the hero, the old man is 
compared in a pompous passage to Lugaidh, son of 
Cian (i.e., Lugh Lamhfada), and Troilus, son of Priam ; 
to the " hound of the artificer " {i.e., Cuchulain) and 
to Achilles, son of Peleus ; with other classical and 
Gaelic heroes. 

In spite of the patriotic ardour of the piece, justice 
is done to those among the English leaders who showed 
a fair spirit towards their adversaries. Sir Conyers 
Chfford's death is lamented as warmly by the Irish 
as by his own party, and the author speaks of him as 


" a knight famous by repute, noble by blood, and a man 
who bestowed jewels and wealth." In relating his 
fall in battle it is generously added : " Great was the 
grief for him who fell there, sad was the fate that befel 
him, and the Irish of the province were not pleased at 
his death, for he never told them a Ue and he was a 
bestower of treasures and wealth among them." Not 
only in this biography but generally in the annals there 
is shown a desire for fairness and a freedom from recrimi- 
nation which compares favourably not only with the 
mediaeval English reports of the Irish leaders, but with 
much modern history on both sides. 

But the most remarkable member of this family of 
scholars was Michael O'Clery (1575-1643), a distant 
cousin of Cucogry, who was perhaps the most voliuninous 
writer and compiler that Ireland has ever produced. 
He was bom in 1575 at Kilbarron on Donegal Bay, 
and was baptized Tadhg ; he was commonly known as 
Tadhg an tSleibhe, or " Teigue of the Mountain," until 
on his entrance into the Franciscan Order he took the 
name of Michael. His elder brother, Maelmuire, who 
afterwards became his ecclesiastical superior, took the 
name of Bemardin. It is under these names that we 
find the brothers entered in the inscription prefacing 
the Annals of the Four Masters, of whom Michael was 
head and chief, while Bernardin was superior or guardian 
of the Monastery of Donegal during the time that the 
Annals were being compiled within its walls. Michael, 
hke his contemporary, Keating, received his early 
education in East Munster, and he was already esteemed 
one of the first Irish antiquarians of his day when he 
entered the Franciscan convent at Louvain, at that time 
the refuge of many Irishmen of learning. The guardian 


of the convent, Aedh mac an Bhaird, or Hugh Ward, 
also a native of Donegal, was himself an ardent enthusiast 
for Irish studies, and he recognised the learning of 
Michael O'Clery. About the year 1620 he sent him 
to collect all the lives of the early Irish Saints that he 
could find, with other material bearing on the early 
religious history of the country. For fifteen years 
O'Clery wandered about in Ireland collecting and 
transcribing all the important literature relating to the 
early traditions of the country which he could procure. 
In the preface which his friend and contemporary. 
Father John Colgan, attached to the edition of the 
" Lives of the Saints," published at Louvain in 1645, 
for the materials of which he was so largely indebted 
to O'Clery's labours, -O'Clery is said to have " laboured 
with indefatigable industry for about fifteen years : 
in the meantime copying many lives of saints from 
very ancient documents in the language of the country, 
genealogies, three or four different and ancient martyro- 
logies, and many other monuments of great antiquity 
which he transmitted hither. At length, by the charge 
of the superiors deputed to this work, he devoted his 
mind to clearing and arranging, in a better method and 
order, the other sacred and profane histories of his 
country, from which, with the assistance of three other 
distinguished antiquarians whom he employed as 
colleagues, he compiled, or with more truth (since they 
had been composed by ancient authors), he cleared up, 
digested and composed three tracts of remote antiquity, 
by comparing many ancient documents." The three 
tracts here spoken of are (1) the Reim Rioghraidhe, or 
" Royal List " of the Kings and Saints of Ireland, with 
their pedigrees and the dues accruing to the former from 


their subjects and from dependent states ; (2) the 
Martyrologium Sanctorum Hibernice, a complete calendar 
of the Irish Saints, with their genealogies and some 
quotations in verse ; and (3) the Leabhar Gabhdla, or 
Book of Invasions, giving an account of the early semi- 
mythical conquests of Ireland from the time of the 
Flood, and bringing down the history to the year 1171. 
The first of these was finished with the assistance of 
his three able co-editors in the " Annals of the Four 
Masters," at Athlone, in 1630. The Leabhar Gabhala 
was \vTitten immediately afterwards (1630-31), at the 
Convent of Lisgoole, Co. Fermanagh, with the aid of 
the same scholars and under the encouragement of 
Brian Maguire, Lord Enniskillen, who lent him his own 
scribe to aid in the work. 

In January of the following year, 1632, we find 
O'Clery settled in the Franciscan Monastery of Donegal, 
engaged on the great work of his hfe, the compilation 
of the Annals of the Four Masters ; and in the same year 
in which this vast undertaking was completed (1636) 
he produced his Martyrologium, which was doubtless 
the result of his earliest studies in Irish antiquities. 
In 1643 we find him back at Louvain, where he printed 
a glossary of difficult Irish words, entitled Focloir no 
Sanasdn Nuadh, dedicated to the Bishop of Elphin, 
a book which was already rare in 1686. O'Clery's 
heavy labours closed at Louvain in 1643. He died as 
he had lived, poor and modest, a scribe who laboured 
unweariedly to rescue from oblivion the records of his 
native land, whose chiefs and saints he praises who never 
praised himself, and whose sorrows and ruin he mourned 
who never dreamed of mourning his own poverty and 
struggles. If O'Clery did little work which can be called 


original, we owe to him the preservation of much 
valuable material which would otherwise have been 
irreparably lost to us. 

It will be necessary to give a separate account of 
some of his compilations. 

Leabhar Gabhala, or Book of the Conquest of 
Ireland, commonly called the " Book of Invasions." 
This book seems to have been known in very early times 
in Ireland, and from it Keating and the Annalists 
drew the material for their accounts of the early 
semi-mythical settlements of the followers of Partholan 
and of Neimheadh, and of the coming of their successors, 
the Tuatha De Danann and the Milesians, to the country. 
We find a fragment of it, one page only, standing at 
the beginning of the Book of the Dun (L.U.) and a 
larger portion, in prose and verse, occupies the opening 
folios of the Book of Leinster. No doubt, the whole 
tract was once to be found in the Book of the Dun, 
for O'Clery, in his preface to the reader, mentions a 
copy of it as one of the authorities from which he wrote. 
He says : " These are the books of Conquest we had 
at hand when writing this Invasion of Ireland. The 
Book of Bally Mulconry, which Maurice, son of Paidin 
O'Mulconry copied from the Book of the Dun Cow. 
The Book of Bally O'Clery, written in the time of 
Maelsechlainn the Great, son of Donnell. The Book 
of the People of Dugenan of Seancuach, known as the 
Book of Glendalough. The Book of the Uacongbhail. 
Together with other books of conquest and history 

There is considerable variation in the manner in 
which the old writers opened their story. A brief 


re-capitulation of the earlier chapters of the Book of 
Genesis prepares the way in the Book of Leinster for 
the introduction of a hero named Gaedel Glas, who is 
said to have formed the Gaelic tongue out of the seventy- 
two languages then spoken in the world, an explanation 
which satisfactorily accounts for any difficulties that 
may be met with by students of Irish. It then 
proceeds with the account of the arrival of Cessair, 
grand-daughter of Noah, who fled to Ireland to escape 
the Deluge, and with the settlements in the usual order, 
carrying the history down to the coming of Christianity 
to Ireland, with a brief supplementary list of the later 
kings, concluding at the date of the writer in the time 
of King Dermot mac Morrough of Leinster, 1166. 
O'Clery, however, decides in his opening paragraph 
that the Biblical part of the story is best discussed by 
theologians, and dismissing summarily the history of 
the first four ages of the world, he proceeds directly 
to the history of the invasions of Ireland. His version 
ends with the reign of Maelsechlainn the Great, " the 
last King of Ireland within her unopposed," at which 
point one, at least, of his authorities deserted him. 
It is uncertain whether the book which he calls the Book 
of Glendalough is the Book of Leinster or not ; some 
of the poems quoted from it, and many of the prose 
pieces, are undoubtedly the same as those quoted in 
the Book of Leinster, but it is possible that they were 
both copied from another MS. This recension, by Michael 
O'Clery, finished in 1631 in the Convent of Donegal, 
was made with great care and with the assistance of 
those learned historians who afterwards aided him in 
the compilation of the Annals of the Four Mastery. 
O'Clery does not profess to write the Leabhar Gabhala, 


but to " purge, compile and transcribe " the " ancient 
honourable chronicles," so-called; he considers it a 
necessary preparation for his future annahstic work. 
It is the most important version existing, and from it 
most of the modern copies are transcribed with more 
or less accuracy. It is signed by the guardian of the 
Convent of Lisgoole and by O'Clery's fellow-workers, 
who testify each in his turn to the care and labour 
bestowed upon the work by " the poor brother, Michael 
O'Clery, and by the company of men helping him." 
In it are numerous long poems by Eochaidh 0'Fl3mn 
(d. 984), Tanaidhe O'Mulconry (d. 1136), Flann Mainis- 
treach (d. 1056), and GioUa Keevin (Caoimhghin) 
(d. 1072), in which the prose matter is repeated in 
obscure verse.* 

Reim Rioghraidhe, or Succession of the Kings. 
This ancient list of the pedigrees of the Kings was also 
transcribed and corrected by the energy of Michael 
O'Clery and his co-adjutors, who laboured so long 
together. It was finished on the 4th of November, 
1630, in the Convent of Athlone, as is stated in the 
dedication to Torloch mac Cochlain, who provided the 
financial support required to carry out the undertaking. 
It was regarded as a preparatory labour to the com- 
pilation of the Leabhar Gabhala, and it was intended 
to include the pedigrees of the Saints, and to show 
their connection with the families of the Kings, but 
this latter portion of the work was only partially accom- 
phshed. The original MS. is at Brussels, having been 

* Peregrine or Cucogry O'Clery's beautiful autograph copy 
is in the Library of tjie R. I. Academy. The publication of 
this work is in contemplation by the Irish Texts Society. 


transferred thither, with many of the other manuscripts 
originally belonging to Colgan at Louvain, from its 
earlier resting-place at the College of St. Isidore, at 
Rome. In a copy transcribed by Richard Tipper in 1728, 
and now in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, is found 
an additioucd preface, added in 1644, the year after 
O'Clery's death, by another Franciscan friar, Paul 
O'Colla, writing in the house of Conall Mageoghegan of 
Westmeath, the translator of the Annals of Clonmac- 
noise. This preface attempts to give a list of the 
authorities from which O'Clery and his companions 
compiled their work, but it is not accurate. O'Curry 
is evidently mistaken in ascribing this preface to 
O'Clery himself. 

The Martyrology of Donegal was so-called because 
it was " begun and finished " in the Franciscan Convent 
of Donegal, 19th April, 1630. O'Clery tells us that 
he had been for ten years engaged in its compilation. 
Two autograph copies are among the Colgan manu- 
scripts at Brussels, the shorter of the two having been 
written by the author in Douay in 1629, a year before 
the complete copy was finished. The Donegal copy 
has no preface. O'Clery gives as his authorities the 
Felire of Angus ; the Martyrology of Tallaght ; the 
Calendar of Cashel (not now existing) ; and the Mar- 
tyrology of Maelmuire O'Gorman (composed 1167), 
taJcen from the Felire or Martyrology of Tallaght. 
O'Clery's compilation is peculiarly valuable from the 
number of legends of saints, poems and hymns that it 
contains. It records the names of a large number of 
Scottish Saints, 


The Annals of the Four Masters. 

It was no doubt the feeling that if the collection and 
compilation of the annals and traditions of Ireland 
were not undertaken at once the time for doing so would 
have passed for ever that brought to the front the many 
laborious and erudite annalists whose work we are now 
considering. The dispersal and loss of manuscripts 
and old records was going on rapidly, and it was neces- 
sary, if the historical and ecclesiastical memorials were 
not to be for ever lost, to collect such records as 
remained and to transfer them into large books 
deposited under safe keeping for the benefit of posterity. 
It was this collection and transcription of material 
which gives its special character to the prose work of 
the seventeenth century. The spirit in which it was 
undertaken may best be gathered from O'Clery's own 
words, in the prefaces to his various writings. In his 
account of his search for manuscripts for his first work, 
the Reim Rioghraidhe, or Roll of the Kings, which 
included the genealogies of the Saints, he says, writing 
of himself in the third person : " Upon the arrival of 
the aforesaid friar, he sought and searched through 
every part of Erin in which he heard that there was a 
good or even a corrupt Irish manuscript, so that he 
spent four full years in transcribing and procuring the 
matters that related to the Saints of Erin. However, 
though great his labour and his hardships, he was 


able to find but a few out of the many of them, because 
strangers had carried off the principal books of Erin 
into remote and unknown foreign countries and nations, 
so that they have left her but an insignificant part 
of her books." 

If in his day there was difficulty in procuring the tribal 
Annals, how much greater it would have been had it 
been postponed to a later period is shown by the list of 
authorities given in his preface as having been used 
by him in the compilation of the " Annals of the Four 
Masters." The larger number of these authorities have 
since been lost. 

The loss of the records was not the only difficulty 
that such men as O'Clery were obliged to face. They 
were forced to find patrons for their work ; and this, 
in the fallen state of the fortunes of the Irish chiefs, 
it was not easy to do. For the great compilation 
known as the Annals of the Four Masters a patron was 
at length found in the person of Ferral O'Gara, Prince 
of Coolavin, Co. Sligo, and in looking at the splendid 
work fostered by his care and carried through by the 
industry of the little group of learned Franciscans and 
their friends who actually accomplished the laborious 
task, we feel that the warm tribute conveyed to O'Gara 
in O'Clery's simple and modest dedication of the com- 
pleted volumes is well deserved.* 

We can only give an extract : — " I, Michael O'Clery, 
a poor friar of the Order of St. Francis, . . . have 
come before you, noble Fearghal O'Gara. . 

* O'Gara's interest in the work, and the friendship of the 
compilers with him, is the more creditable to both from the 
circumstance that he was an Anglican, and had been educated 
at the then recently estabhshed Trinity College, Dublin. 


I explained to you that I thought I could get the 
assistance of the chroniclers for whom I had most esteem 
in writing a book of Annals . . . and that should 
the writing of them be neglected at present they would 
not again be found to be put on record or commemorated, 
even to the end of the world. There were collected 
by me all the best and most copious books of Annals 
that I could find throughout all Ireland (though it was 
difficult for me to collect them into one place), to write 
this book in your name and to your honour, for it was 
you that gave the reward of their labours to the 
chroniclers by whom it was written ; and it was the 
friars of the convent of Donegal that supplied them 
with food and attendance in like manner." 

The ruined Franciscan monastery, in a cottage within 
whose precincts the devot-ed brethren worked, stands 
at the head of the beautiful Bay of Donegal. It had 
been built in the year 1474 by the Lady Nuala, daughter 
of one of the Leinster O'Conor Falys, who had married 
an O'Donnell of Donegal. At her wish, enforced by 
the unexpected appearance of the lady herself with a 
troop of attendant gallowglass in the midst of the 
deUberations of a provincial Franciscan Chapter near 
her old home, a number of friars followed her to the 
North and established a new house within the borders 
of her husband's territory. Looking out now upon 
the still waters of Donegal Bay from the grassy pathway 
which alone divides the monastic precincts from the 
sea, no scene could be more peaceful, more mournfully 
tender in its desolation. Even the small bustle of the 
market-town does not reach so far. But in the half- 
century preceding the date of the compilation of the 
Annals, no spot in Ireland had been the centre of moye 


constant wars and tumults than these now silent shores. 
The passing and re-passing of Red Hugh's troops in 
his sudden and vigorous descents into Connacht, the 
trampUng of English armies and the occasional arrival 
of a band of mercenaries from Scotland or of a war 
vessel from Spain to the aid of O'Donnell, kept the 
friars in perpetual peril. Twice they had been forced 
to fly, once when the Sheriffs of FitzwiUiam swooped 
down on Donegal at dead of night and occupied the 
monastery as a garrison ; once again, when in 1601, 
Nial Garbh, traitorously uniting with the English 
against his own brother-in-law, took possession of 
the monastery in Hugh Roe's absence, and the 
brethren were forced to take refuge in the woods or 
on board a vessel in the harbour. The accidental 
blowing up of the powder stored within the walls, 
which exploded with a terrific crash and involved the 
building itself and all |;hat it contained in a common 
ruin, brought to an end the history of the monastery, 
and the flight of Rory O'Donnell, brother to Red Hugh, 
to Rome in 1607 left the friars without a protector. 
A few old friars passed the residue of their lives beneath 
the ruined walls or among the surrounding glens and 
mountains, but no young members were henceforth 
permitted to join the community. 

Here, from January 22nd, 1632, to August 10th, 1636, 
Michael O'Clery worked uninterruptedly, chiefly upon 
the materials collected by himself in his wanderings 
through Ireland. He was assisted for longer or shorter 
periods by his relatives, Cucogry and Conaire O'Clery, 
by two members of the family of O'Mulconry from 
Co. Roscommon, Torna and Ferfeasa, and by Cucogry 
or Peregrine O'Duigenan of the family of the hereditary 


historians of the Mac Dermotts and Mac Donaghs in 
the same county. The true title of the famous Annals 
compiled during these four years of assiduous labour 
is the Annates Dungallenses (Annals of Donegal), or 
Annala Rioghachta Eireann (Annals of the Kingdom 
of Ireland). The name by which they are popularly 
known was bestowed upon them by Rev. John Colgan, 
author of the " Acta Sanctorum," in affectionate 
memory of the four chief out of the six compilers who 
had a share in the work. Among the books still existing 
to which the annalists refer in their address to the 
reader, are the Annals of Clonmacnois, the Annals of 
Ulster, the Book of the O'Duigenans of Kilronan 
(possibly that now known as the Annals of Loch Ce) 
and the Book of Lecan, but there are several others 
now unknown. 

The first entry dates from the age of the world, 2242, 
" forty days before the flood," at which point is placed 
the arrival of the first inhabitant to Ireland, and we are 
given an uninterrupted narrative of events from that 
ancient date onward to the year 1616 a.d. The entries 
begin, like all national records, with legend and tradition, 
and as the Septuagint chronology for the date of the 
Deluge is adopted, there is a vast space of time to be 
filled up by occasional entries of events drawn from 
the stories of the successive invasions by different 
bands of pre-historic settlers, or from the traditions 
of the ancient kings ; long stretches of time being 
accounted for by a few brief entries. The annalists 
do not allow themselves to insert, as Keating does, 
the picturesque legends found in the Romances of the 
early Kings of Tara, nor yet the lives and traditions 
of the saints. For ecclesiastical affairs the Annals of 


Ulster are more full and reliable ; the chronology of 
the Four Masters has also to be corrected from other 
sources for the first eight or nine centuries of the Christian 
era, being generally from three to five years earlier 
than the true date. The entries become fuller as the 
history proceeds, and they end with the detailed account 
of times quite near the date of compilation. Taken 
as they are from earUer records, these annals may seem 
in large part a dreary repetition of tribal raids and petty 
wars, burnings of churches, monasteries and territories 
belonging to neighbouring chieftains, drivings of cattle, 
and deaths of chiefs, learned men or ecclesiastical 
personages. But if these pages lack variety and large 
interest, we must remember that such was, in fact, 
the internal history of Ireland during many centuries. 

Fortunately for the future church historian, and for 
the history of art, the building of a large church, the 
destruction of a monastery or tower, the carving of a 
stone cross, or the construction of a hand-bell or the 
metal cover for a crozier, and the loss of a valuable 
manuscript, were matters that were thought as worthy 
of mention as the raids or wars of chieftains. To 
reconstruct the history out of these isolated entries 
requires care and close investigation ; but as we watch 
the progress of events from year to year, we are able to 
follow the life of any particular personage of note, or 
to unravel the social and political condition of any 
special district much as the detached and uncoloured 
jottings in a diary might be studied. 

The question of the general reliability of the Irish 
Annals after we arrive at the historical period is one of 
great importance in consideration of the fact that they 
endeavour to push the date of actual history much 


further back than the records of the other portions 
of the British Isles would take us. The English 
chronicle does not carry us back beyond the period 
of the Roman occupation, and its entries, up to the 
time of the coming of the Saxons, are few and inter- 
mittent. The Annales Cambrise begin near the close 
of the fifth century, and though the Historia Britonum 
ascribed to Nennius carries us further back, it deals 
rather with the traditions respecting the origin and 
settlements of the different races inhabiting Britain 
than with actual pre-Christian history. The regular 
entries of facts, however, begin about the time of the 
departure of the Romans from Britain. The Pictish 
Chronicles present us in the earUer portions with 
traditions of the origin of the Picts and with long bare 
lists of names of kings. The value of these tracts dealing 
with the history of the sister countries was, nevertheless, 
early recognised in Ireland. Several short tracts on 
the Picts and Scots are preserved in Irish manuscripts, 
and we have numerous versions of the Historia Britonum, 
the earliest of which is found in the Leabhar na h- 
Uidhre, the oldest existing Irish manuscript. It would 
seem that in the Welsh and Scottish Annals earUer Irish 
records have been largely drawn upon ; events relating 
to Irish hagiology, such as the deaths of St. Patrick 
and St. Brigit, the birth of Columcille and his departure 
for Hi or lona, the obits of SS. Ciaran and Brendan 
of Birr, and the journey of St. Gildas in Ireland make 
up a large portion of the scant entries in the early 
portions of the Annales Cambrise. They are evidently 
taken from an Irish original, and remind us of the close 
connection that existed between these countries in the 
early Christian period, drawn together as they were 


by a common belief and by a church system almost 

It is plain that we can only test the reUability 
of the Irish records when we get to events of which 
the historical remains of other countries also retain 
a record with which they may be compared. One 
of the first historical events that we can test by the 
light of contemporary evidence is the passing over 
of Fergus Mor and his clan to Scotland, and the 
settlement of the Kingdom of Scottish Dalriada in 
Argyleshire. This settlement of the Irish Dalriads is 
one of the best-marked and most certain points in the 
early history of these islands. From Fergus mor the 
Scottish kings traced their descent, and the name of 
Loarn, one of the chiefs who accompanied him, is still 
retained in the house of the Dukes of Argyle as the 
title of the eldest son. This event happened about 
506 A.D., and the history of its fortunes, as told in the 
Irish records and by Adamnan, may be accepted as 
a simple record of fact. 

But we can push our historical ground further back 
than this. The reign of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and 
that of his predecessor, Crimthann, are said in the Annals 
to have been marked by important foreign wars in Alba, 
Britain and Armorica (Brittany). Crimthann, during his 
short reign, is supposed to have over-run these countries, 
and Niall is said to have died while conducting an army 
into Gaul by the treachery of one of his own followers. 
Besides this, Niall is said to have taken a great army 
into Alba, to strengthen the Irish settlers in the south- 
western districts, who already, before the time of 
Fergus, had made small settlements there. Now these 
foreign raids and wars date about 366 a.d., and the 


following half-century. This was the period of those 
terrific descents of the Picts and Scots from the North 
and West which it tried all the power of the Roman 
armies in Britain to arrest and hold back. The Picts 
were the inhabitants of Scotland or Alba ; the Scots 
the Irish of Ireland, and the western coasts of Scotland. 
The inhabitants of Ireland were called Scots until long 
after this period. It was only when the Irish- settlers 
in Scottish Dalriada gave their own name in affectionate 
memory of the old country to their new possessions, 
that the title passed away from Ireland and gradually 
became the common name of the whole land of the 
Picts. It was probably about this time that the 
western districts of Scotland began to bear the name 
of Scotia Minor, in distinction to Scotia Major, or 
Ireland, but it was not until the Kingdom of Scotland 
was firmly established in the reign of Kenneth mac 
Alpin that the old country finally abandoned a name 
that had become confusing. Abroad, Ireland was 
known by the name of Scotia, and her people as Scots, 
up to the fifteenth century. The ravages made by 
the Picts and Scots on the North and West of Britain, 
and the efforts made by the Romans to stem the 
advancing tide of conquest are famiUar to every reader 
of Enghsh or Roman history. About 386 a.d., twenty 
years after the time to which the conquests of Crim- 
thann are ascribed, the Scots and their alUes had 
made such progress that they were driven back from 
the gates of London by the Emperor Theodosius. 

The Britons appealed for aid to Rome, and in 396 
A.D. the able General StiUcho was sent to repel the 
invaders. The difficulty of his task is proved by the 
rapturous praise bestowed on Stilicho by Claudian 


on the successful General's return. " The Scot " 
(i.e., the Irish), he exclaims, " moved all lerne against 
us and the sea foamed under his hostile oars." It was 
probably against Niall of the Nine Hostages' that 
Stilicho fought. 

When the Roman troops were again withdrawn, in 
402 A.D., the Picts and Scots once more swept over the 
country, and again the Romans sent aid. It was in 
407 A.D., two years after the death of Niall, that Con- 
stantine withdrew the Roman troops for the last time 
to resist the invasions of the Goths who were threatening 
to overwhelm Rome. 

When we reach Christian times, the points of com- 
munication are nimierous, and the records can be tested 
at various points. The great plague which swept over 
Britain and passed on to Ireland, mowing down in the 
path of its triumphant progress scholars of the schools, 
abbots of monasteries, and even more than one Ard- 
Righ of Tara ; the British and foreign men of note 
who sought scholarship in Ireland ; the efforts of 
Adamnan on behalf of the Irish captives carried as 
prisoners to Northumbria by King Egbert (Bede, Book 
IV., Chap, xxvi.), the many historical notices in Adam- 
nan's Life of Columcille, such as the Battle of Magh 
Rath or Moyra (called in Scotland Bella Roth), the 
reigns of Eochy Buidhe and Aiden, etc., are all capable of 
proof alike from the Irish and the British and Scotch 
contemporary chronicles, and these elucidate each other. 
Moreover, the whole history of the Celtic Church, on 
either side of the Irish Sea, is closely connected, and the 
history of the one cannot be understood without constant 
reference to that of the other. 

When we reach the period of the Norsemen, the Irish 



records become invaluable. At a time when Norse 
history proper contains Uttle else but myths of the 
gods, the doings of the race in these western Isles, 
their incursions, their leaders, and their settlements 
are fully detailed in the Irish Annals. Norse history 
begins with Harold Fairhair in the ninth century ; 
before that all is mythical. But in Ireland we are, 
in the ninth century, in the full career of certain history, 
and behind lies an indefinite period, iilled up with 
what the mediaeval Irishman took equally for positive 
fact, and which we to-day, in the light of modern criti- 
cism, cannot afford to throw entirely overboard. The 
more we examine these documents in connection with 
those of other nations the more, I think, we shall become 
convinced of their substantial accuracy. Perhaps the 
greatest misfortune that befel them was when, under 
Biblical influence and in Christian times, the dates were 
pushed backward and made to correspond with the 
Jewish chronicles from the time of the Flood, thereby 
introducing a confusion that we shall never be able 
to rectify ; but even allowing for this, and for the large 
romance element that the early history has undoubtedly 
incorporated, a mass of material remains, which, if 
we cannot vouch for its exactitude, may be taken as 
substantially accurate from about the fifth century 
onward, and which demands even for an earlier epoch 
to be treated with greater seriousness and openness 
of mind than is usually accorded to it. 


Annals and Historical Tracts. 

Annals of Tighernach. — The Annals of the Four 
Masters are only the most important of a large series 
of Annals, the earliest existing of which, the Annals 
of Tighernach, a learned ecclesiastic who died in 1088, 
are in mixed Latin and Irish, the foreign events being 
entered in Latin and those relating to Ireland in Irish. 
Up to the Christian era the larger part of the entries 
refer to foreign events, and a feature of these Annals 
is the preference given to the Provincial dynasty of 
Ulster over that of the Monarchs of Tara. The Hebrew 
chronology is used instead of that of the Septuagint, 
which is employed in the Annals of the Four Masters 
and the Annals of Ulster. These Annals are among 
the most rehable of the Irish records, as well as being 
the oldest. The Abbot Tighernach O'Braein, the 
compiler, belonged to a family of religious rather than 
of literary men, but his Annals show learning, accuracy 
and discrimination. He quotes from Baeda, Josephus, 
Eusebius and other early Christian writers, and shows 
an acquaintance remarkable for his time with general 
history. The Annals were written at the Abbey of 
Clonmacnois, of which Tighernach was Abbot. After 
his death, in 1088, the chronicles were continued by 
Augustine mac Gradoigh (Grady) who carried them 
on to 1405, and another scribe made some subsequent 
entries. Several copies of these Annals remain, but 
they are all fragmentary. 

The Annals of Ulster. — So named by Ussher on 


account of the prominence given in these chronicles to 
the affairs of Ulster ; but originally known as the " Book 
of Shanad of Mac Manus in Loch Erne," Shanad being the 
old name for the Island of Belleisle in Upper L. Erne, Co. 
Fermanagh. The book is referred to by O'Clery as 
one of the volumes used by the Four Masters. The 
MS. in T.C.D. states at the year 1498 that Cathal mac 
Manus was the author of the volume. He was the 
head of a junior branch of the sept of Maguire, a Canon- 
choral of Armagh, and Dean over Loch Erne, and a 
magnificent eulogy is pronounced over him in the 
Annals on his death, in 1498. This copy is continued 
down to the year 1504 ; but the MS. in the Bodleian 
Library carries on the Annals to 1541. At the head 
of the Annals, which omit the early legendary history 
and open with the mission of Palladius to Ireland, in 431, 
stand the words " Jesus, mine it is to begin. Thine 
it is to finish." These Annals, though not so full as 
those of the Four Masters, preserve for us many details, 
especially of ecclesiastical affairs, omitted by them. 
O'Donovan justly praises their " extreme veracious 

Chronicum Scotorum. — There are two good copies 
of these Annals in existence, one in the fine handwriting 
of Dugald mac Firbis, about 1650, in Trinity College, 
Dublin, and the other transcribed in France by Rev. 
John Connery about a century later, in the Royal 
Irish Academy. Like most of the Irish Annals the 
entries in the earlier portions are scant, and Mac Firbis 
explains the omissions in his copy as being made by 
him " to avoid tediousness," for which reason he made 
" only a short abstract and compendium of the history of 


the Scots {i.e. Irish) in this copy, omitting the lengthened 
details of the historical books." The chronicle extends 
to 1136, with a supplement, carr5nng it down from 
1141-1150. Mac Firbis seems to have undertaken 
the task of transcription unwilHngly, for a note on one 
of the early pages says : "Ye have heard from me, 
O readers, that I do not like to have the labour of 
writing this copy, and it is therefore that I beseech 
you through true friendship not to reproach me for it 
(if you understand what it is that causes me to be so) ; 
for it is certain that the Mac Firbises are not in fault." 

O'Curry thought that the Chronicum Scotorum was 
a compilation of Mac Firbis' own, but the above words 
seem to show that he was copying from some older 
manuscript against his inclination and at the desire 
of some other person. Probably Sir James Ware, 
who employed Dugald on many laborious tasks for 
which he made scant acknowledgment, required the 
material for some purpose of his own. Hennessy 
considers that he copied from a chronicle compiled 
in the monastery of Clonmacnois, possibly the " Book 
of Clonmacnois," mentioned by the Four Masters as 
one of their sources of information. Bishop O'Brien, 
who possessed O'Flaherty's copy, calls it " Chronicum 
Scotorum Cluanense." At the year 718 Mac Firbis 
says in a note " A front of two leaves of the old book 
out of which I write this is wanting." As a matter of 
fact there is no history between the years 718-804, 
about which period a break also occurs in the Annals 
of Tighemach, written in the same monastery. An 
inscription in the MS. copy at the Royal Irish Academy 
ascribes its authorship to Gillachrist O'Maeileoin, Abbot 
of Clonmacnois, who, according to these Annals, died 


in 1123 (=1127). The chronology is incorrect, and the 
author dismisses the account of the early invasions 
with the impatient remark " I pass to another time, 
and He who Is will bless it." He then goes on to the 
birth of St. Patrick. 

The Annals of Innisfallen. — These Annals have 
never been pubUshed. They are named from the Island 
of Innisfallen in the Lower I-ake of Killarney, in which 
they were compiled. Remains of the ancient monastery, 
said to have been founded by St. Finan the Leper in 
the sixth century, may still be seen among the trees 
with which the island is thickly covered. The com- 
pilation of these chronicles has been ascribed with much 
probabihty to Maelsuthan O'Carroll, a powerful chief 
of the neighbouring tribes of the Killarney district, 
who had been educated in this monastery and retired 
there again at the close of an eventful life. He is 
described in the Annals of the Four Masters as the 
" Chief Doctor of the Western World ; " he seems also 
to have been an ecclesiastic, and was confessor and 
tutor to the famous King of Munster, Brian Boru, 
whom he accompanied in his royal progress through 
Ireland after his assumption of the throne of Tara. 
His inscription, entered in the Book of Armagh as Calvus 
Perennis (an incorrect Latin translation of his name 
Maelsuthan), is a lasting memdrial of the King's visit 
to that city, for he says that he wrote it "in the sight 
of Brian, Emperor of the Scots." 

In the British Museum are two poor copies with trans- 
lation, the best of which begins in the Irish portion 
at the year 250 a.d. and ends at 1064, though the 
translation, very badly and roughly written, goes down 


to 1320. The Bodleian copy of the Annals comes down 
to the year 1319, but it is not known who continued 
them after Maelsuthan's death. 

The history of the early kings is given at considerable 
length, and there are some entries differing from the 
other Annals. 

Annals of Loch Ce (Loch Key), or Annals of 
Kilronan, usually known by the former name, because the 
single existing MS. from which it was edited* belonged 
to its part-compiler, Brian mac Dermot, of M'Dermot's 
Castle, who lived on a small island in the Southern 
corner of the beautiful lake of that name near Boyle, 
Co. Roscommon. On the death of its owner, in 1592, 
the MS. passed into other hands. It was bought in 
1766 by Dr. Thomas Leland, who deposited it in Trinity 
College, Dubhn, where it now lies. At this time and 
down to 1836 it was known as a continuation of the 
Annals of Tighemach, and was lettered on the back 
" Tigemachi Continuator," but in 1836, Dr. O'Donovan 
pronounced it to be the lost Book of the O'Duigenans 
of Kilronan, Co. Roscommon. O'Curry disputes this 
opinion, but the editor, Mr. WilUam Hennessy, shows 
that there is good reason for beheving O'Donovan to 
be correct, and that such portions as remain of the true 
Annals of Loch Ce are contained in another MS. in 
Trinity College, sometimes called the Annals of Innis- 
fallen (F. 1. 18). The Annals edited by Hennessy open 
abruptly with a debcription of the Battle of Clontarf 
in 1014 and are carried down to 1590, having been 
completed by Brian mac Dermot, who brought them 
down to within two years of his own death. The 

♦Marked H. i. 19, T.C.D. 


tract originally began at an earlier date, for the Four 
Masters used its entries for the years between 900-1563 
A.D. Besides the loss of these opening leaves, several 
other gaps occur in the MS., especially between the 
year 1138-1170 and 1316-1462. A fragment of the 
MS. was found in the British Museum, which the editor 
has used for the years 1577-1590. He has suppUed 
part of the gap occurring between the years 1316-1413 
from some Annals known as the Annals of Connacht 
(T.C.D., H. 1. 1-2), which agree so closely with the 
present work that they would appear to be independent 
copies of a common original. The scribes who copied 
these Annals seem often to have been obliged to stop their 
work from fatigue and exhaustion. " I am fatigued 
from Brian mac Dermot's book," says one of them. 
Another excuses himself because " his pulse has shrunk 
through excess of labour." More pathetic still is the 
brief note, " I cease from want of a dinner." 

The Annals of Connacht. — There are two manu- 
script copies of these Annals in existence,* both written 
by Maurice O'Gorman, a busy but inaccurate scribe 
who copied them in 1764 and 1783. In their present 
condition they begin at the year 1224 and close at 
1562. They closely resemble the Annals of Loch Cd, 
and the years 1394-1397 are missing in both. 

The Annals of Clonmacnois. — ^There is no special 
reason why these Annals should have received the name 
they bear, except the prominence they give to the 
history of those parts of the country bordering on the 
Shannon, and their detailed account of St. Ciaran, the 

• One at the R.I.A. (marked No. 35, 4-5), and one at T.C.D. 
(marked Class H,, i, 1-2). See above, " Annals of Loch C6," 


founder of the monastery of Clonmacnois, and of the 
events of his time. It is Uncertain whether the book 
mentioned by the Four Masters as one of their authorities 
is the same which now goes under this name. The 
author, " a great Latinist and schollar " and a " worthy 
Prelate of the Church, who would say nothing but the 
truth," was so good an Irishman that he " could not get 
his penn to name the Kings of England or other foreigne 
countryes by their proper names, but by such Irish 
names as he pleased to devise out of his own head," 
a habit which EngUshmen using Irish names have not 
failed to copy. No manuscript of the original remains 
to us, but we possess three copies of an English 
translation made in 1627 in the quaint tongue of 
Elizabeth's day by Conall or Conla Mageoghagan, of 
Lismoyne, Co. Westmeath, whom O'Clery calls " the 
industrious collecting Bee of everything that belongs 
to the honour and history of the descendants of Milesius 
and of Lewy, son of Ith, both lay and ecclesiastical, 
so far as he could find them." Mageoghagan tells us 
that " the ould Irish book which he was translating " 
had many leaves lost or stolen out of it ; and " by longe 
lying shutt and unused " there were many parts which 
he could hardly read, for they " were altogether grown 
illegible and put out," so that he was obliged to omit 

These Annals begin with the Creation and end at 
the year 1408. The author tells us that he has made 
use of Eusebius and of the Venerable Bede, as well as 
of the works of several Irish Saints and Chroniclers. 

The Annals of Clonmacnois are much fuller for the 
earlier portions than the Annals of Ulster or those 
of the Four Masters, They embody a number of the 


legends of the early kings and saints, and in particular 
give a lengthy account of the founding of Clonmacnois 
and the subsequent fall of Tara which is elsewhere found 
only in the historical tales ; also of the history of the 
unhappy Queen Gormliath, wife of King Niall Glundubh, 
whose matrimonial alUances rivalled those of her more 
notorious namesake in the time of Brian Boru. 
Occasionally the writer indulges in general reflections, 
as in his lam6nt over the troubles brought upon the 
country through the Danish wars, or in his excursus on 
the limits of Magh-Breagh. The quaintness of the 
language, as well as the freedom of style and fulness 
of the information given, make these Annals peculiarly 
interesting. The chronology should, however, be 
corrected by that of the Annals of Ulster ; in some places 
the difference between them amounts to six or seven 
years. But the Annals of Ulster are themselves 
antedated by one year up to 1014 a.d. 

Annals of Boyle. — ^The original manuscript of 
these only partly published Annals is in the British 
Museum. 0' Curry seems to consider them to be the 
Annals of Loch Ce. They contain numerous entries and 
marginal notes referring to the neighbourhood of Boyle, 
Co. Roscommon, where they were written, and extended 
originally from the Creation (the early leaves are now 
lost) to the year 1300 a.d. A few passages phonetically 
spelled show that the peculiarities of Irish pronunciation 
in the district in which they were written are the same 
to-day as they were in the fourteenth century. 

The Leabhar Oiris or Book of Chronicles (called 
also Seancha Muimhneach), a Munster Chronicle which 
has been sometimes ascribed to Mac Liag, bard of 


Brian Boru, is mainly an account of the battles of that 
king from the accession of Maelseachlain in 979. The 
entries are carried on to 1027 a.d. where they end 
abruptly. It is written by a partisan of Brian, but 
probably not by Mac Liag, who is mentioned by name 
in the course of the history. Several of his long poems 
are included in the narrative. 

It remains to mention the Irish versions of the British 
History of Nennius (so called), in Irish, Leabhar 
Breathnach or Breathnochas. It seems to have 
been at least as well known in Ireland as in Britain 
to judge by the Irish manuscripts that remain of it. 
These differ a good deal among themselves, some con- 
taining whole sections not found in other copies. The 
origin of these chronicles has always been obscure. 
The work may be described as a common-place book 
into which records of all sorts, British, Pictish and Irish, 
have found their way. The large number of Irish 
entries of saints in the early sections seems to show 
that the chronicles of Ireland were familiar to the 
writers of the earUer portions. 

In some Latin copies a tract on the Wonders of 
Ireland foUows the sections on the Wonders of Britain 
and of the Isle of Man, but this is omitted in the Irish 

Contemporary Records. — We have yet to deal with 
some other records of a more independent type than the 
genealogies, successions of kings, and Annals to which we 
have already referred. These are separate histories of 
special periods, of which by far the naost important is the 
history of the Norse invasions known as "The Wars 
of the Gaedhil and Gaill," or of the Irish and the 


Foreigners. There is no author given for this important 
piece, nor is the date of its compilation known. It has 
been thought, hke the Leabhar Oiris, to be the work of 
Mac Liag (d. 1016), the chief poet of Brian Boromhe 
(Boru) whose rise to power and wars with the Norse, 
ending in the fatal battle of Clontarf on Good Friday, 
1014, it so affectionately describes ; but there is no 
absolute proof of this. It is in any case probably the 
work of a contemporary of Brian, and of one attached 
to his house and family, as it sets his actions in the 
best light, and deals (in the larger part of the book) 
with the part played by Munster, and by Brian's 
clan, the Dal Cais or Dalcassians, in the events of the 
day. The work opens with a general account of the 
arrival of the Northmen at various points round the 
coast and of their endeavour to effect settlements 
inland. Even here, the south of Ireland comes in for 
the largest share of attention, and the details about 
Munster are the most explicit. In this part of the 
work, which is necessarily a compilation from earlier 
sources, as it deals with events before the writer's own 
day, the matter is entered in a confused manner, the 
same events being frequently repeated and whole 
paragraphs being misplaced. The narrative must, 
therefore, be used with care, the repetitions being 
frequent and confusing. It is nevertheless an in- 
valuable record of an important period, and without 
it our knowledge of the course of events during the 
Norse occupation would be much less precise than it is. 
The interludes by the author, too, are interesting as 
indicative of the general feeling in his time about the 
Northmen and their oppressions. When we arrive 
at the second portion of the history, which is probably 


the original work of the author, and which deals exclu- 
sively with the family of Brian of the Tributes, the 
style becomes much more diffuse, and the events are 
narrated with all the detail of personal knowledge 
backed by the influence of clan and provincial feeling. 
Hardly less important is a piece dealing with a 
later period called The Triumphs of Torlough 
[O'Brien] written by John Mac Rory Magrath, hereditary 
historian to the Lords of Dal Cais, probably about 
1459 A.D. This piece is a valuable record of the Anglo- 
Norman period. It falls into two parts, the first 
containing the wars of Torlough O'Brien and Thomas 
de Clare, 1275-1285, and the second the wars between 
Mortough O'Brien and Richard de Clare, 1310-1318. 
An Introduction to the first part relates how the 
Sovereignty of Ireland passed to the English, and 
describes the attempts made by Donough Cairbrech, 
Conor na Lindaine and his sons, Teigue and Brian, 
to maintain their independence (1194-1275). The 
preface to the second part tells how the prosperous 
Kingdom of Torlough, established after the death of 
Thomas de Clare, was disturbed and broken up under 
the rule of his son, Donough (1287-1310). A brief 
continuation brings the story down to 1355. The 
history, so far as Munster is concerned, is given in great 
detail and the piece fills an important gap. It contains 
twenty-three poems in Rosg metre.* 

* This piece has not yet been published, but an edition is in 
course of preparation for the Cambridge Press by Standish 
Hayes O'Grady. The oldest known copy is in T.C.D., and is 
dated 1509; Andrew mac Curtin's copy, made in 1721, from 
a MS. of 1459, is in the same Library, and another copy made 
in 1608 exists in the R.I. Academy. Two translations, pur- 
porting to have been made by Peter O'Connell, are to be found 
in the British Museum. 


The Norse wars in Ireland gave rise to the composition 
of an unusually large number of pieces the foundation 
of which is historical, but which are related under the 
form of romantic tales. There are, for instance, 
numerous versions of the Battle of Clontarf and the 
circumstances that led up to it, and there is a valuable 
and dramatic tract dealing with the wars of the turbulent 
King Cellachan of Cashel, a Munster Prince whose 
career is therein preserved. Of great importance also 
for the history of this period are some Annals copied 
by Dugald mac Firbis from a vellum in possession of 
the Mac Egans, of Ormond, describing the Danish wars 
in Ossory and Leinster, of which unfortunately only 
a fragment has been preserved. These separate 
historical pieces are full of passages of picturesque and 
dramatic description, and though the exaggerated and 
rhapsodical passages that they contain make it difficult 
to distinguish what is historical fact from what is 
poetical romance, the general truthfulness of their 
details can be tested from other sources. The local 
colour they contain, the vividness with which historical 
events are pictured, and the knowledge they give us 
of the temper and habits of their day are of a 
special value owing to the meagreness with which 
such details are treated in the longer Annals. Nothing 
could well be more dramatic, if it were stripped of 
some of the cumbrous circumlocution which to a 
certain extent detracts from the picturesqueness of 
all this mediaeval hterature, than the account of the 
capture of Cellachan of Cashel by the Danes of Dublin, 
and his lament over the slaughter of the friends who 
were trying to rescue him and whose gory heads were 
exhibited to him one by one on the green of the fort 


where he was imprisoned ;* or again, of his being tied 
to the mast of Sitric's ship in sight of the army sent to 
his rescue in the harbour of Dundalk, and the terrific 
sea-fight that preceded his dehverance. Cellachan was 
not altogether a prince who did honour to his country ; 
during the early years of his life he showed no hesitation 
in joining with the enemies of his nation to gain his 
own ends, and he was more occupied during the greater 
part of his reign in wasting Meath and Connacht in 
conjunction with the foreigners than in driving them 
out of the land. The Annals of Clonmacnois call him 
" that unruly Kinge of Mounster that partaked with the 
Danes." His career, however, is one of the most 
dramatic of all those of the Norse period. 

Poetry in the Annals. — ^These romantic settings 
of historic tales contain much poetry. Just as in the 
pure romances long dialogues in verse, songs and 
laments, break the tedium of the prose narrative, so in 
the historic tales there are to be found numerous long 
poems which usually repeat in verse the substance of 
the prose matter. These are specially numerous in 
the career of Cellachan of Cashel and in the Wars of 
the Gaedhill and Gaill, the latter being frequently in 
the form of dialogues between the chieftains. 

Even some of the Annals contain snatches of verse. 
It will be remembered that the original custom was 
to enshrine all matter of pubhc importance in verse, 
and portions of these old poems are incorporated in the 
Annals of Tighernach and those of the Four Masters. 

* Now College Green, Dublin. The poem uttered on this 
occasion is an evident imitation of the " Lay of the Heads," 
sung by Emer and Conall Cernach after the " Red Rout," made 
by the latter to avenge Cuchulain's death. 


They are naturally more common in the earlier 
portions of the Annals than among the later entries. 
Even a trivial subject is sometimes invested with 
a surprising dignity in the quatrain devoted to its 
preservation, while events of importance are often 
enhanced by their poetic setting. In the account of 
the terribly destructive Battle of Shgo, fought in 546 
(537, Four Masters) in which Eoghan Bel, King of 
Connacht, was slain, these fine lines occur : " The 
Battle of Hy Fiachrach is fought with fury of edges 
over the border. The kine of the foemen bellowed 
against the spears ; unto Grinder was the battle spread 
out. The River (Shgo) carried off to the great sea 
the flesh and blood of men. They utter paans over 
Eba round the head of Eoghan Bel." 

Again, in the entry on the slaying of one Doir, son 
of Aedh Allen, in 623, there is a grim thought expressed 
in the verse put into the mouth of the murderer. " What 
profit to me is the slaying of Doir, for I have not slain 
the little Doir (his son) ? 'Tis then one has killed a 
chafer when the chaferling is killed." 

The apostrophe to the mill in which the two sons of 
King Blathmac, son of Aedh Slaine, were barbarously 
ground to death by Mael Odran of Leinster, is worth 
repeating : "0 Mill, though thou hast ground much 
wheat, this time 'twas not a grinding upon oats, 'twas 
on the grandsons of Cearbhal (Karval) thou grindest. 
The grain that the mill grinds is not oats ; red is the 
wheat it grinds. Of the saplings of the mighty tree 
is the feed of Mael Odran's Mill." All these verses 
are found both in Tighernach's Annals and in those of 
the Four Masters. They are either copied one from 
the other or they were well-known poems inserted from 


a common tradition. There is one quatrain that appears 
in Tighemach only, and which is perhaps the most 
poetic of all, indeed the most poetic description I have 
ever met with, of the drowning of a man at sea. The 
entry runs : " (621 a.d.) The drowning of Conang, 
son of Aedan, son of Gabhran. On it Ninine the poet 
sang : — 

" The sea's pure waves and the sun that pursued him, into his 
weak coracle they flung themselves together on Conang ; 

" The woman that cast her white hair into his coracle against 
Conang, it is her smile that smiled to-day on Torta's tree." 

The idea of the pursuit of the unfortunate youth 
by the sun and waves, and of the sea-foam as a white- 
haired woman flinging herself into his fragile bark and 
smiling at her capture, are equally imaginative. 

Two pieces of contemporary history remain to be 
mentioned. The first of these contains a description 
of The Flight of the Earls, O'Neill and O'Donnell, 
from Donegal, in 1607, written by their friend and com- 
panion, Teigue O'Keenan, who, with a large company 
of other retainers, accompanied their flight and subse- 
quent wanderings. The book may be described as the 
travelUng diary of the party. It recounts their 
departure from Ireland and the perils of their voyage 
to Havre de Grace on the coast of Normandy, where 
they landed, and commenced a series of leisurely 
wanderings through France and the Netherlands, 
ultimately arriving in Rome by way of Switzerland 
and Northern Italy. They were received with 
distinction by the Archduke in the Low Countries and 
by the Pope in Rome, in which city they settled and 
ultimately died. Their tombs are still pointed out 


to visitors in the Church of S. Pietro in Montorio."- It is 
unfortunate that so interesting a piece of contemporary 
history should have been regarded by its author rather 
in the light of a record of matters that were of curiosity 
to himself as a traveller than of those Ukely to be of 
importance to posterity or to the historian. He"^is 
more concerned to give a minute account of the cities, 
churches and pictures visited by the party, and of the 
legends related about them, than to place on record 
the leading events of the Earl's career and the social 
and poUtical conditions of their time. The original 
autograph remains in the Library of the Franciscan 
Monastery, Merchants' Quay, Dublin, whence it was 
transferred from St. Isidore's Convent at Rome. No 
other copy of it appears to be in existence.* 

Even more important is the work styled HistoritB 
CaiholiccB Ivernics Compendium, written in Latin by 
Philip O'Sullivan Beare, and first published in Lisbon 
in 1621. Philip had been sent for refuge into Spain 
in 1602, while yet a young boy, from the same port 
whence Red Hugh O'Donnell had sailed ten months 
before. He became a soldier, and in 1619 he is heard 
of on a squadron appointed to guard the Spanish 
treasure-fleet on its approach to Cape St. Vincent. 
His father and family after many sufferings had joined 
him in Spain. It was from the lips of his father and 
his companions that he heard many of the details 
recorded in his history, by far the most important 
portion of which deals with the Elizabethan Wars in 
the South and West of Ireland. The Siege of the 
Castle of Dunboy by Sir George Carew, in 1602, and his 

* It is being edited for the Irish Texts Society by Miss A. 


demolition of the castle and savage butchery of the 
inhabitants on Dursey Island, with the retreat of his 
uncle, Donall O'SuUivan Beare, the Lord of Dunboy, 
across the Shannon, are detailed with much minuteness, 
and a pathetic account is given of their sufferings on 
the way to Ulster, only a remnant of thirty-five men 
out of the thousand persons who had accompanied him 
at the start having arrived alive at the end of their 

The Lord of Dunboy took refuge in Spain on the 
accession of James L, and was created by him Earl of 
Bearehaven. He was assassinated in Madrid by an 
Anglo-Irish refugee, in 1618. Other parts of this 
history deal with the general state of Ireland, and 
especially with the condition of the Catholics under 
Henry VIII., and his successors ; .the^account^is brought 
down to 1613. A long section is devoted to the report 
of a Spanish Knight, named Ramon, who visited St. 
Patrick's Purgatory in Donegal, and described to the 
author his experiences there. 

Among a number of other Annals written in Latin 
or EngUsh and giving fragments of contemporary 
history important for the periods with which they deal 
may be mentioned the Annals of the Franciscans of 
Multifernan, Co. Westmeath. They are among the 
oldest Latin chronicles existing in Ireland, and terminate 
in 1274. 

The Annales Hibernice which terminate at 1370, but 
contain entries by different hands up to 1539 ; 

Annals of Ireland, by Friar John Clyn, particularly 
full and valuable from the Scottish invasion in 1315 
to the plague in 1349, at which date they close ; 
"^A Treatise of Ireland by John Dymnock, in English, 


important for its account of events at the close of the 
sixteenth century, and especially in the year 1599, of 
which the writer was evidently an eye-witness ; 

Annates breves HihernicB, by Thady Dowling, Chan- 
cellor of Leighlin up to his death in 1628. His 
chronicles close at 1600. 

MacaricB Excidum. A secret history of the wars 
of the Revolution in Ireland, written under feigned 
names and purporting to be a history of the Destruction 
of Cyprus. Compiled by Colonel Charles O'Kelly. 


Geoffrey Keating (Seathrun Ceitinn), 1570— 
died sometime later than 1646. 

There is no name better known in the Annals of Irish 
Literature than that of Geoffrey Keating. Yet our 
knowledge of Keating's career is, considering his fame 
as a preacher and the respect in which he was held on 
account of his learning and writings, singularly scant 
and unsatisfactory. The dates both of his birth and 
of his death are uncertain, but the best authorities 
agree that he was born in 1570, in the village of Burgess, 
in Co. Tipperary, and that he belonged to a family 
whose ancestors were pioneer Norman settlers, probably 
bearing a name resembhng Fitz-Stephen or Fils 
Etienne, Hibernicised into Mac Eitinn or Ceitinn, as 
found in the manuscripts. The family legend goes that 
the name was derived from the Irish word cead-teine or 
" first-fire," from a fire lighted by the author's progenitor 
to direct the troops of Fitz-Stephen on his arrival in 
Ireland, and that the family motto, " fortis et fidelis," 
with the crest of a wild boar rampant, was reminiscent 
of a wild boar which had been aroused by the blaze and 
slain on the spot by the courageous pioneer. Keating's 
parents must have been in good circumstances,* for 
after his early education in the bardic schools of his own 

* There is a record of a permit or " pardon " granted to 
Keating's father by the Crown, releasing him from penalties 
for recusancy. This may account for the comparative freedom 
of action enjoyed by the family. 


district he was sent abroad to receive a classical and 
theological training at one of those excellent Irish 
Colleges which then flourished in France, Spain, Italy 
and Germany. His name, " P. Geofroy Ketting, 
docteur en thMogie, Vatterford," appears among a 
list of Irish priests who were protected and educated 
by the Archbishop of Bordeaux in that city between 
1605-1621 ; and he is mentioned by an anonymous 
writer (probably David Rothe, Catholic Bishop of 
Ossory, and author of the " Analecta "), in a work 
protesting against the attempt of the Scottish Dempster 
to appropriate the Irish Saints to Scotland, as an Irish- 
man of singular distinction in Literature and Doctor 
of either Toulouse or Bordeaux.* 

He seems to have returned to Ireland about the year 
1610, early in the reign of James I., and was appointed 
curate to the Very Rev. Eugene Duhy in Tubrid, a 
village distant only a few miles from his native place. 
Here he laboured for several years, his fame as a preacher 
spreading through the country, so that he went hither 
and thither to minister to large and often fashionable 
congregations. Together he and his vicar built the 
little church, beneath the shade of which both after- 
wards found a resting-place. An inscription over 
the door of the ruined church, bearing the date 1644, 
contains the words in Latin, " Pray for the souls of 
the Rev. Fr. Eugene Duhy, Vicar of Tubrid, and the 
D. Doctoris Galfridii Keating, founders of this church, 
and also for those of all others, whether lay or clerical, 

* The College of Bordeaux was founded in or about 1603 by 
Father Dermott M'Carthy, of Inniskerry, under the patronage 
of Card. Francis de Savodia. Keating was the seventeenth 
student admitted to the College. 


whose bodies are therein interred." One of his latest 
poems, probably the last he ever wrote, " Miiscail do 
mhisneach, a Bhanbha," is dated in the body of the 
poem itself, 1646 a.d. We may therefore conclude 
that his death took place later than that date.* 

Keating had already begun to write poetry when i\e 
was in France, whence he dictated a charming poetical 
epistle to Ireland, " Mo bheannacht leat, a scribhinn," 
and he continued throughout his hfe to give expression 
to his feeUngs in verse. At least eighteen poems are 
certainly of his authorship, and several others are 
attributed to his hand. 

To this early period, 1615, belongs also his theological 
treatise, Eochair-scaith an Aifrinn, or " The Explanatory 
Defence (or Apologia) of the Mass " ; his other large 
theological work, Tri hior-ghaethe an Bhdis, or " Three 
Shafts of Death," being the production of a later period 
(about 1625). 

Dr. Keating lived in troublous times for the Catholic 
clergy, for the exercise of their calling was always 
hable to be interrupted, and there were enemies con- 
stantly on the watch to report them to the Government. 
Soon after his return, his name, along with that of 
simdry other priests and friars, was noted in a report 
containing the names of ecclesiastics coming into Ireland 
from abroad, whom it was desirable to keep under 
observation. Nevertheless he laboured for many years 

* An Irish note on a manuscript of Keating's History, recently 
in the possession of the late Mr. David Comyn, stated that 
Archbishop O'Brennan, of Cashel, who died in 1692, was buried 
at his own request in the grave of Geoffrey Keating at Tubrid. 
The statement was originally made by Tadhg O'Neachtan. 
This is testimony to the fact that the historian was interred 
in this church. 


without very serious interference, and when at length his 
parochial and hterary labours at Tubrid were brought to 
an abrupt conclusion, it was by the private action of a 
lady of his congregation who, incensed at a sermon 
which she believed to be directed against herself, 
addressed a complaint to the President of Munster, 
a personal friend of her own, and persuaded him to put 
into force the Conformity Act, which had hitherto lain 
in abeyance so far as Tubrid was concerned. In 
consequence, " orders were immediately issued for horse 
and foot to go in quest of our preacher, as obnoxious 
to the laws provided against seminary priests," and 
Keating was forced to fly.* He took refuge in a cave 
called Poll Granda, some seven miles west of Cahir, in the 
Glen of Atherlow, a spot long remembered by the 
peasantry as the place of his retreat. This lovely 
valley, lying at the base of the Galtees, had been a 
favourite haunt of " rebels " in the days of EUzabeth, 
but it had been " cleared " by order of Carew, who, 
in the ruthless record of the day, is stated to have 
left behind " neither man nor beast, neither corn nor 
cattle." It was while in hiding in this solitary spot 
that Keating planned and began to write his most 
famous work, the Forus Feasa ar Eirinn, or " Founda- 
tions of Knowledge of Ireland," commonly known as 
his " History of Ireland." The watch kept upon him 
cannot have been very close, for when his own manu- 
scripts were exhausted he wandered in disguise through 
every part of Ireland accumulating materials for his 
work. It would have been easy to apprehend a man 
who remained for considerable periods in one place 
copying and collecting manuscripts, but the petty 
* Clanricarde's Memoirs, Preface, Lond., 1722. 


revenge of personal spite having been attained by his 
removal from Tubrid, he seems to have been left un- 
molested. We read that the Protestant gentry as well 
as the Catholics, who possessed manuscripts Ukely to 
be of service to Keating, everywhere received the learned 
and enthusiastic priest with honour and passed him 
on from place to place in safety. The chief difficulty 
he seems to have met with was from the Irish of Ulster 
and Connacht, who distrusted him on account of his 
Norman origin, and who were inclined to behave that 
a Munsterman would do scant justice to the records 
of the North. The enormous number of books and 
manuscripts, Irish, EngUsh, and Classical, from which 
Keating quotes, or which are alluded to as his authorities, 
show that he must not only have consulted many 
collections of books during his wanderings, but that he 
must himself have been possessed of a considerable 
library. Had he been continually hunted from place 
to place, as tradition states, this would hardly have 
been possible. The Dionbhrollach or Preface to his 
work was written in 1629, and the whole history was 
completed before 1634. The earliest existing copy 
is the important manuscript in the Franciscan Monastery, 
Dubhn, which was written before 1640.* It seems to 
have been written in the Convent of Kildare and after- 
wards to have belonged to the Monastery of Donegal, 
whence it was carried to Louvain by the learned author 
of the " Lives of the Saints," Rev. John Colgan. It is 
described as one of the books " found in the chamber 

* There is a condensed version of the work in MS. in the 
British Museum written by one of the family of the O'Duigenans, 
and dated 1638 (Egerton, 107), which would point to a still 
earlier date. 


of our Father Colgan " after his death. The other 
chief contemporary manuscripts of the Forus Feasa 
are those transcribed by his friends, the O'Mulconrys, 
one of whom was engaged at the same period in assisting 
the O'Clerys in their compilation of the Annals of 
the Four Masters. They were a Connacht family 
of scribes whom he probably visited during his 
wanderings. It is possible also that he met Michael 
O'Clery there, for there is a tradition that O'Clery 
visited Roscommon about this time, and even the 
manuscripts which O'Clery had collected for his edition 
of the Leabhar Gabhdla seem to have been made use of 
by Keating for his own work. Possibly he may himself 
have visited the Convent of Donegal where the learned 
confreres were engaged in compiling the Annals from 

During the war of 1641, Dr. Keating's sjmipathies 
were warmly enlisted in favour of the " Old Irish " 
party under Owen Roe O'Neill. He, however, seems 
to have felt some personal liking for the Butler family, 
to whom several of his poems are addressed. Several 
of his poetical efforts are laments on the deaths of his 
friends, some of whom fell in battle during the war. 

We must now pass to the consideration of his literary 
work. By far the most noted of his writings is his 
History of Ireland {Forus feasa ar Eirinn). Though 
Keating's History was compiled at the same period as 
the Annals of the Four Masters, the design and execution 
of his work is quite unlike theirs. The compilers 
of the Annals arranged and incorporated in chrono- 
logical order the various existing chronicles which their 
diligence had managed to collect together. They did 
not seek to edit or expand their material or to construct 


out of it a connected and readable history of the country. 
Their compilation, a monument of industry and an 
invaluable though frequently a bare record of events, 
appeals to the scholar rather than to the public or the 
general reader. They retain to a large extent the archaic 
spelling of the manuscripts from which they copied, 
and their only object is the preservation of the records. 
Keating, using much the same materials, attempts to 
construct out of them a consecutive narrative to suit 
the taste of the great mass of his Irish fellow-country- 
men. His history was the first, and it remains the 
only important effort to write a history of Ireland 
in Irish and for the Irish people. It immediately 
became popular, and it continued to be one of the best- 
known Irish manuscripts * until after the famine of 
1846, which gave the final death-blow to the native 
language and literature. After an elaborate preface 
in which he disputes with much spirit, but with, 
occasionally, an unfortunate lack of historical accuracy, 
the adverse opinions of English writers upon Ireland, 
he proceeds to give an interesting list of the authorities 
upon which he has drawn for his materials ; they 
include not only the traditional records and annals, but 
those romantic tales in which most of the old historical 
tradition is enshrined. It is in the use that he makes 
of these romances that Keating's History differs from 
the Annals ; they merely mention the supposed historic 
kernel of events, but he introduces the tale out of which 
the annalists have extracted the central fact. His 
history gains in this way in interest and poetry, but he 

* There are no less than ten transcripts of Keating's History 
in the British Museum alone, written between the date of its 
compilation and 1703. 


makes no attempt to separate history from romance.. 
He opens with a lengthy account of the early settlements 
of Ireland, incorporating large portions of the " Book 
of Invasions," upon which he has copiously drawn. 
Romance and legend and ecclesiastical materials are 
all made use of, and his energy has collected and pre- 
served for posterity a number of stories which are 
otherwise unknown. In critical capacity Keating 
cannot be said to rise above the mediaeval level. He is 
diffuse and rambling, and many of his dissertations and 
chronological calculations might well have been spared. 

His great claim to permanent study arises from his 
admirable and chaste use of the Irish tongue, and his 
works will always remain a standard of Irish at its best 
period, before it fell into decay. It is free ahke from the 
archaicisms of the genealogists and bards and from the 
inevitable corruptions which the want of a written 
standard brought about at a later day. It represents 
the current tongue of the Irish scholar writing when his 
native language possessed its full vigour and retained 
its purity of use as the natural method of his literary 

Dr. Keating's most important theological work is his 
" Three sharp-pointed Shafts of Death " {Tri Bior-ghaethe 
an BhAis), which treats in a mystical and symbolical 
manner of corporeal and spiritual death, with warnings 
and exhortations growing out of the consideration of 
these subjects. The mournful topic is worked out in 
thirty-six chapters divided into three books, and is 
elaborated with the wealth of illustration and allegorical 
interpretation usual in mediaeval treatises on death and 
the after-life. Even apart from the grave and dignified 
style in which it is written, the work is interesting 


as proving the wide range of the author's reading 
and the enormous mass of examples that he had at his 
command. He draws in rapid succession upon Bibhcal 
and Apocryphal Uterature, on Josephus and the Fathers 
of the Church ; upon classical authors and facts from 
ancient and mediaeval history. Occasionally, as in 
his chapter on the advisabihty of holding " Grief -feasts " 
or " Wakes " (Bk. iii., ch. vii.), or in that in which he 
treats of various methods of burial among pagan and 
Christian nations (Bk. iii., ch. viii.), he draws, among 
other sources, upon native Irish customs for his illus- 
trations ; more rarely still, he introduces a modern 
incident drawn from personal knowledge or hearsay 
(cf. Bk. ii., ch. vii.). 

The work is a model of scholarly Irish in its best 
period. Besides this treatise, Keating wrote " The 
' Key-shield,' or Defence of the Mass " {Eochair-sciath 
an Aifrinn), a didactic and controversial work, and a 
short tract on the Rosary or Cordin Mhuire. 

Keating's poems are partly didactic and religious, 
and partly laments over deceased friends or over the 
state of the country and the departure of the native 
gentry, a mournful theme which has inspired hundreds 
of Irish poems by authors known and unknown. Per- 
haps the best of Keating's poems on this subject is the 
one beginning : "Om sceol ar ard-mhagh Fail ni chodlaim 
oidhche," written after the Fhght of the Earls to France 
and Italy. Among his laments for personal friends 
is a poem of considerable length on the death, in 1640, 
of Lord Dunboyne, beginning, " Druididh suas, a chuaine 
an chaointe," which relates the virtues of the departed 
chief in over three hundred lines. Other laments are 
those on the death of Lord James Butler, written before 


1620, on Shawn Oge mac Gerald, Lord of the Decies 
(d. 1626), and that on the death of the two sons of 
Lord Dunboyne, who fell in battle in 1646. 

Keating uses with considerable skill a great variety 
of the old metres ; yet his verse is rather the work of a 
cultivated prose-writer, wielding a form of expression 
not equally familiar to him, than that of a spontaneous 
poet. Some of his poems, however, show grace and 
ease of style. Among the best are his lines in praise 
of the Irish tongue, " MiUs an teanga an Ghaedhealg," 
and his poetic epistle to Ireland " Mo Bheannacht leaf, 
a scribhinn," both of which are very charming, and his 
religious verses, " Caoin thii fein, a Dhuine Bhoicht." 
His spirited poem beginning, " Miiscail do mhisneach, 
a Bhanbha," was written in 1646. 


Satires and Burlesques. 

From the earliest times satire, personal or tribal, 
has been a favourite method of attack or reprisal in 
Ireland. With the waning of the almost despotic 
powers of the magician and medicine-man, the terror 
of actual bodily injury or death following on the pro- 
nouncement of a satirical quatrain or charm must have 
passed away, but there always remained among the 
people a dread of a poem maliciously directed against 
any individual, and a real beUef that it would entail 
misfortune upon the person against whom it was recited. 
Personal satire, often of the most virulent and abusive 
kind, was commonly employed by the bards, up to a 
quite recent date, against those who had in any way 
offended them ; the poetry of the Jacobite period, in 
particular, is full of satirical pieces of the most maUcious 
and cruel description. A sUght or a refusal by a patron 
to render assistance was often sufficient to call forth 
one of these unpleasant rejoinders, and the knowledge 
that such a piece was circulating among his tenantry 
often frightened the recipient into acceding to the 
demands made by the author. If an unfortunate girl 
happened to be the object of a bard's attack she was 
looked upon askance by all her neighbours and was 
considered an unsuitable match for a respectable youth. 
Thus, even in the days of their degradation, the roving 
bards still wielded locally in their own districts and 
villages much the same sort of tyrannical power as their 
predecessors of a happier time had exercised over the 
entire clan and its chieftains. 


But besides these personal satires, the outcome of 
private or petty spite, there are remaining several 
longer pieces, of different periods, that stand on a quite 
different plane, and in which matters of public interest 
are treated in humorous prose or verse, or whole classes 
of persons are held up to ridicule, and there are besides 
large numbers of pure burlesques, stories recited purely 
to excite the merriment of the hearers, and not having 
any further intention beyond the entertainment of the 
passing hour. Some of the serious satires are of suf&cient 
importance to be treated separately. One of the most 
humorous is a piece in which the ancient bards and 
satirists themselves are held up to ridicule, and their 
numbers and methods, their dishonest extortions and 
the obscurity of their language are exaggerated and 
made ridiculous. This is a piece entitled " The Pro- 
ceedings of the Great Bardic Institution." The 
main purpose of this extravaganza is to explain how the 
story of the Tain bo Cuailnge was recovered after its 
supposed loss, but this is preceded by a long prose satire, 
describing the visit of one of the ancient bardic com- 
panies, headed by Seanchan, chief poet of the period, 
to King Guaire, of Connaught, and the terror inspired 
in the neighbourhood by the absurd and impossible 
demands made by each member of the huge company in 
turn. " They went not to bed any night without wanting 
something, and they arose not a day without some one 
of them having longing desires for things that were 
extraordinary, wonderful, rare and difficult of procure- 
ment." If they did not receive their most extravagant 
demands within twenty-four hours satires and maledic- 
tions were threatened. An abject terror of them seizes 
upon their hosts. King Guaire is found on his knees 


imploring God that he might die ere he should hear 
himself satirized and defamed by the great Bardic 
Association, and in another portion of the story when 
another bard, Dalian, the predecessor of Seanchan, 
tells King Hugh, of Oirgiall, that he will satirize him, 
the king exclaims, " The powers and miracles of the 
King of Heaven and Earth be on my side to save and 
protect me against thee." Though this bardic company 
includes only two-thirds of its whole number, because 
Seanchan remembers that the province is poor and that 
they might eat up all the land if they came in their 
full strength, yet his followers number thrice fifty 
professors, thrice fifty students, and an equal number 
each of male and female attendants, of hounds, and of 
every class of craftsman. Magnificent preparations are 
made for their reception, but all is defeated by their 
unreasonable behaviour. Although the subject and style 
of this piece make it appear heavy and antiquated to 
the modern reader, it is written with a good. deal of 
humour and it gives some hard hits at the traditional 
extravagances of the bards.* 

A satire worked out with more conscious art and of 
a far higher literary quality is the piece known as "The 
Vision of IVIac Conglinne," which its editor. Dr. Kuno 
Meyer, considers to have been composed at least as 
early as the twelfth century. In the condition in 
which we have it the tale, which is partly in prose 
and partly in verse, has probably been pieced together 
out of two ancient tales which ran on somewhat 
different lines, for the narrative is confused and fre- 
quently repeats itself. The main theme of this curious 

* Imtheacht na Tromdhiimhe. Trs. of the Ossianic Society, 
Vol. v., 1857. 


and powerful mock-heroic piece is the curing by a poor 
scholar of a King of Munster, Cathal mac Finguine 
(d. 737 A.D.), who was afflicted with a voracious appetite 
which no amount of food could appease, and which 
was supposed to be caused by " a demon of gluttony " 
which had taken possession of him. The main 
object of the piece seems to be a broad Rabelaisian 
satire on the monks and clergy of the day, but its most 
interesting feature is the vision of Mac Conghnne, 
the poor scholar, who undergoes many sufferings 
in his efforts to rescue Cathal from his affliction, and 
who relates for this purpose a vision which he had 
seen of a fortress or palace composed entirely of viands 
and set in a sea of milk. This curious poem seems 
to have suggested passages in " The Land of Cokaigne." 
It begins as follows : — 

" An apparition wonderful, 

A vision most delectable, 
I tell to thee ; 

In coracles of lard we break 

Out of the port of New-milk Lake 
To sail the World's smooth sea." 

The loading and starting of the ship is then described, 
and the sailors reach an island made entirely of food : 
" The fort we reached was beautiful 
Out-works of custards plentiful, 
Beyond the loch were laid ; 
The bridge in front new butter bright, 
The rubble dyke was wheat most white 
Bacon the palisade. 

" Smooth pillars of ripe cheese were seen, 
With sappy bacon props between 

Alternately displayed ; 
Of mellow cream the roof-tree beams 
The rafters of white curd, meseems. 

The house from falling stayed, etc." 


The viands mentioned in this piece are of the simplest 
pastoral kind, and include varieties of oaten and wheaten 
cakes, cheeses, curds, and butter, honey and porridge, 
with bacon, lard, eggs and broth, and meats of different 
sorts. Tripe and salmon are mentioned and of vege- 
tables, kale, carrots, leeks, onions and apples. Ale and 
wine are also spoken of, but are not much insisted 
upon. Indeed, when, having reckoned up innumerable 
sorts of food, the Wizard Doctor who appears to Mac 
CongUnne in his vision comes to order him his " drop 
of drink," it is a drink of milk he gives. " A tiny 
little measure for thee, Mac CongUnne, not too large, 
only as much as twenty men will drink, on the top of 
those viands ; of very thick milk, of milk of great 
strength, of milk of medium strength, of yellow bubbhng 
milk, milk that makes a snoring bleat like a ram as it 
rushes down the throat, so that the first draught says 
to the last draught : ' I vow, thou mangy cur, that if 
thou comest down, I'll go up, for a pair of dogs like us 
cannot fit at once in this treasure-house.'" There are 
exceedingly curious notices of old customs introduced 
incidentally into this piece. 

As examples of mock-heroic poems of a more recent 
date, we may take two poems composed respectively 
early in the eighteenth century, and later on in the 
same century, the poem called " The Adventures of 
a Luckless Fellow " {Eachtra ghiolla an dmarain) 
by Donagh Rua Macnamara, and that called " The 
Midnight Court " (Cuirt an mheadhoin oidhche), by Brian 

Macnamara, or, to give him his Irish name, Donn- 
chadh Ruadh mac Conmara, was born at Cratloe 
in Co. Clare, about the beginning of the eighteenth 


century. It was hoped by his parents that he would 
enter the priesthood and he was sent to Rome to 
finish his education and to receive Holy Orders. 
But his ungovernable character showed itself even at 
this early age, and he was expelled from the college and 
returned home to Ireland, where he followed, in the 
intervals of wilder courses, the profession of school- 
master at Slieve Gua in Co. Water ford, and other places 
in the same district. He did not stay long anywhere, 
for his evil ways made him feared and disliked in every 
village in which he chanced to plant himself, and he 
finally left the Decies country and spent the latter part 
of his life between the mountains of Comeragh and the 
River Suir. In 1745 he paid a visit to Newfoundland 
{Talamh-an-eisc, or the " Land of Fish"), which probably 
suggested the poem on his " Adventures." Macnamara 
was a man of considerable learning, but his method 
of life brought him into the lowest depths of misery, 
and in 1764 we find him appealing for help to a gentleman 
named James Ducket, who seems to have responded 
to his petition, for the bard remained for many years 
under his patronage at White's-town. In his last days 
he is found teaching the three sons of James Power 
in the same neighbourhood. He died about 1814. 
The first part of his " Adventures of a Luckless Fellow," 
or the " Mock iEneid," as it is often called, gives a 
humorous description of his determination to give up 
his miserable life at home and his start to try and retrieve 
his fortunes in America. His friends, probably glad 
to be rid of a worthless neighbour, loaded him with 
gifts, and he set sail from Waterford. He is relating 
the sudden state of misery into which he and his fellow- 
emigrants were thrown by the rise of a squall, shortly 


after they sailed out of the harbour, when, overcome 
by sickness, he sinks into a swoon, and the vision, 
which is the main subject of the poem, begins. Part II, 
opens with the appearance of a gentle lady, the Fairy 
Princess Aoibhill, or Evall, of Craiglea, who places her 
cool hand on his forehead and draws him away into a 
wilderness, out of which opens a dismal cave which 
leads them down to the River Styx or Acheron, over 
which, as in Virgil's ^neid, the shades of the dead are 
being ferried. 

But Mac Conmara has his own ideas about the con- 
ditions in the under world, and they differ considerably 
from those of Virgil. He gives his Hades a specially 
Irish complexion. Conan of the Fianna, and not Charon, 
is the boatman, and the hosts he ferries across are not 
persons who, as in Virgil, have not been duly buried 
in this world, but those who have caroused and drunk 
away their earnings and have not even left themselves 
a halfpenny to pay to the ferry-man, " unless one is 
given to them in charity." Like Mac Conmara himself, 
who spoke little English, Conan will speak nothing 
but Irish or Latin, nor will he take any Saxon over the 
ferry without a bright sixpence. In one place the poet 
sees, close beside the valiant men of Troy and Greece, 
the Tuatha De Danann being routed by the men of 
Fenius Fearsa, and in another " Hugh Mac Curtin from 
Erin " is sitting close beside Juvenal, " versifying 
melodiously in Irish." He is suddenly awakened from 
his vision of the underworld by cries of " all hands aloft" 
from the deck, and is shortly afterwards plunged with 
the rest of the crew into a hand to hand fight with the 
crew of a French frigate which has borne down on them. 
They capture the French vessel and return with their 


booty to Ireland, where our hero lands with severe 
wounds on his body and an heroic resolve that never 
again in his life would he put foot on a ship unless he 
were dragged on board by ropes and cords. 

It is singular that it is from the hand of the author 
of this rollicking comedy that we get one of the most 
beautiful and refined of Irish lyrics, the exquisite song 
called "The Fair Hills of Holy Ireland" [Bdnchnoic 
Eireann oigh.") 

Brian Merriman's poem, " The Midnight Court," stands 
on quite a different plane to that of the Mock iEneid. 
Although from the nature of its subject and treatment 
it can never be widely read, and is quite unsuitable to 
the young, it is undoubtedly a piece of sustained power, 
and is wrought with artistic skill of the highest order. 
The author, whose name is sometimes written in Irish 
" Brian mac Giolla-meidhre,"* was born in the middle 
of the eighteenth century in the parish of Clondagach, 
Co. Clare, where his father was a small land owner. 
He was a wild and pleasure-seeking youth, but an 
accomphshed performer on the violin. For thirty years 
he was school-master in the parish of Feakle in the 
Barony of Tulla Upper. He died in Limerick in 1808. 

His chief poem, " The Midnight Court," written in 
1780-1, is a witty but broad satire on social conditions, 
written under the usual form of a vision or AisUng. 
On a beautiful morning in July the poet wanders out 
into the wild and mountainous region of Loch Greine, 
in Clare, and takes shelter from the heat of the day 

♦ Mr. S. H. O'Grady thinks that this is only a translation 
from the Enghsh form of the name, and states that he is always 
spoken of in his own district of Co. Clare as Merriman. (See 
Cat. of MSS. in the Brit. Mus., p. 493«0 


in a shady nook, where he flings himself down on the 
grass and falls asleep. Short was his sleep before 
there appeared to him a gigantic woman from fairy- 
land, a terrific and grotesque figure, who bore in her 
hand a brass-mounted mighty wand of office. She 
called on him peremptorily to arise and follow her to 
a grand conclave that was even then being held under the 
presidency of the same Fairy Queen Evall, of Craiglea, 
who had appeared to Macnamara, and who was 
apparently alwa}^ close at hand when any Munster bard 
happened to fall asleep in the open air, during a couple 
of centuries at least. The questions under debate 
were the needs, the depopulation and the misfortunes 
of Ireland, and how these evils might be remedied so 
far as Thomond was concerned. Into the midst of 
this debate the bard is precipitated. He hears the 
arguments on both sides, and at the close of them the 
summing up of the Fairy Queen, who gives it as her 
opinion, among other things, that as there is a general 
complaint from the women that the young men of Ireland 
are too slow to marry, every youth of twenty-one who 
is stiU unwed is to be handed over to the weaker sex 
to be chastised as they shall see fit, while every old 
bachelor is to be put to death with such tortures as they 
may please to devise. At this moment they observe 
Brian, who is still unmarried, and these " advanced " 
women, while solemnly entering the date of their glorious 
emancipation in a volume prepared for the purpose, 
determine to carry out their new resolutions upon him 
as the nearest victim. In a cold sweat of terror 
Brian awakes, and the vision vanishes away. 

In spite of its unpleasant subject-matter and often 
coarse language, the mastery of form and speech shown 


in this poem give it a rank far above that of the rhetorical 
and often imitative and insipid verse of many of Merri- 
man's contemporaries. It is an original work, wrought 
with conscious art and skill. The long sustained rhythm, 
with the use of double rhyme in many lines and the 
careful employment of alUterative vowels and words, 
combine to produce a poem of real power. The opening 
passage describing the, to him, famihar shores of Loch 
Gr6ine, is one of the most beautiful in Irish literature. 
Literally, it runs as follows : — 

" Full often I strolled by the brink of the river 
On the green-sward fresh, 'mid the heavy dew, 
Skirting the woods, or in mountain recesses, 
No care in my soul, in the full light of day. 
My heart would light up when I saw Loch Greine, 
The heaven's expanse o'er the country I loved ; 
Delightful and soft was the lie of the mountains 
Peak beckoning to peak o'er the ridges between. 
The heart glowed with joy that erewhile had been withered. 
Spent of its vigour and wearied with pain ; 
The weakling, embittered by want or by exile. 
Might well gaze awhile on the green forest's crests. 
Wild ducks sailed in flocks o'er the bay's mistless waters 
Among them the swans gliding gracefully through, 
The fish in their jollity flung themselves upwards 
I saw the gay perch with its manifold hues ; 
I saw the loch's azure, the blue of its ripples. 
Which [one day would] thunder its weight on the shore. 
Bright birds in the trees made a melody mirthful, 
While hard by the doe bounded off to the wood. 
With winding of horns flashed the huntsmen upon me, 
Brave Reynard in front and the hounds on his heels.'"'' 

Three satires which became well-known in the South 
of Ireland are called the Parliament of Clan Thomas, 
♦ The original of the first lines runs — 

Ba gnath me ag siiibhal le ciumhais na h-abhann 

Ar bhainsigh uir 's an driicht go trom ; 

Anaice na g-coillteadh a g-coim an t-sleibhe 

Gan mhairg, gan mhoill, ar shoillse an lae. 


the Adventures of Clan Thomas, and the Adventures 
of Tadhg Dubh. The last is by Egan O'Rahilly, a 
Munster poet of the close of the seventeenth and begin- 
ning of the eighteenth centuries, and from their similarity 
in thought and structure the two former are believed 
to be from the same pen. They are fierce social and 
political satires, ridiculing in often coarse and brutal 
language the habits and modes of hfe and thought of 
the Cromwellian settlers of low origin and of the Irish 
who imitated them and assisted them to oppress their 
own countrymen. The pride and avarice of these men, 
their low morals and gluttony, and the brawls, disunion 
and treachery in which they engage are depicted in 
strong colours and with minute details. 

The Later Bards. 

Towards the beginning of the seventeenth century 
a sudden and remarkable outburst of energy brought 
the bards once more into prominence. 

Though the bardic schools had continued to turn out 
their annual quota of youths trained for the bardic 
profession throughout the previous hundred years, there 
is an unusual paucity of great names among the poets 
from about the middle of the fifteenth until towards 
the close of the sixteenth century. 

Bardic Profession Hereditary.— The fact that the 

profession was hereditary in certain famiUes and seldom 
admitted outsiders into its ranks, however well qualified 
as poets they might otherwise be, tended to destroy 
originality in a calhng which could not attract to itself 
spontaneous genius from outside. From century to 
century some representative of each bardic family 
occupied the honourable position of his ancestors, even 
though he might not be well qualified by nature or 
disposition for the duties of his office. Thus, of the 
great family of the O'Dalys, the most famous bardic 
race in Ireland, there are thirty-six entries made in the 
Annals of the Four Masters between the years 1139-1589, 
and the family continued to flourish till well into the 
seventeenth century. 

The same authority gives twenty-two entries of 
members of the family of Mac-an-Bhaird, or Mac Ward, 
hereditary poets to the O'Donnells of Donegal between 
the years 1173-1609. These flourished until the close 


of the seventeenth century. They gave their name 
to the wild district known as Lettermacaward, or the 
" country-side of the bards' sons." Of the O'Higgins 
of the neighbouring district in Sligo and Fermanagh 
there are thirty-three entries up to 1536, and other 
famiUes, such as the Mac Brodins, O'Coffeys, and Mac 
Craiths or Magraths, produced equally long lines of 
family bards. They hved on the hereditary estates 
assigned to them by the chiefs to whose persons they 
were attached, and they were sustained by the ample 
fees bestowed upon them for their compositions. 

In no country did the professional poet fare so well 
as in Ireland. It has been computed that in the petty 
princedom of Tyrconnel or Donegal, the real estate 
allocated to the maintenance of the literati amounted 
in value to £2,000 a year of our present currency ; and 
we find Daire mac Brodin, poet to the Fourth Earl of 
Thomond (about 1570-1650), residing still on his own 
patrimonial estate in the Castle of Dunogan, Barony of 
Ibrican, in the west of Co. Clare. 

Bardic Fees. — As to the fees or rewards of the later 
bards for their performances, we have the testimony of 
Tadhg Dall O'Higgin, or " Blind Teigue," in a poem 
describing a festive night spent in the house of Maelmora 
mac Sweeney.* After describing the great concourse 
of poets gathered round Mac Sweeney and the pledging 
of the hostf from " golden goblets and from beakers 

* He was slain by Scottish mercenaries at the instance of 
Captain Malby, titular English Governor of Connacht in 1581. 

I Though uisge beathadh, AngUcised " whisky," was at this 
period drunk in the country, neither poets nor tale-tellers appear 
from their poems to have condescended to it ; they speak only 
of ale, wine, and mead. 


of horn," the poem relates that they went to rest shortly 
before dawn ; before they fell asleep Teigue promised 
them a story "for a price." The rewards given on 
this occasion were " a dappled horse, one of the very 
best in Ireland," from Maelmora, and from three chief 
bards who were present, " a wolf-dog that might be 
matched against any," a little book that was " a well 
brimful of the very stream of knowledge," and a harp 
belonging to Conor O'Higgin, minstrel-in-chief of the 
Mac William-Burkes. This was not bad payment for 
a story ; perhaps the ale from the golden beakers had 
taken effect upon the listeners. 

The bards seem to have been very punctilious in 
demanding their full rights, and their complaints were 
loud and bitter if any unauthorised person usurped 
their authority with their chief or tendered him advice 
which they held it to be their own prerogative to 
give. O'Hosey or O'Hussey, poet of the Maguires, on 
being appointed oUave or poet-in-chief, reminded his 
patron in his laureate ode that the ollave ranked in 
all ways as an equal with a king and bishop. 

" To him is due the warmth of loving-kindness, the primest 
of all largesse, the initiative in counsel ; the seat closest to the 
prince and a share of his bed, with payment whether ' in wood ' 
or ' in sanctuary.' " 

He gave Maguire clearly to understand that he would 
lose no time in taking steps towards the assertion of 
an oUave's rights. He insisted that at his command 
Maguire was bound to harry one district or to protect 
another, and that no one was entitled to give him 
counsel before himself ; nay, even a chieftain might 
not stand higher with his master than he. He demands 


a dwelling close beside the chief's house and his share 
of " imperishable patrimonial soil." 

" To every man of us ollaves the highest species of estate 
is a piece of land close to the chief and blessed with equal facilities 
for grazing or for tillage, as with resort to the bordering pasture 

The very security and comparative affluence of their 
position must have tended among the less gifted bards 
to indolence of mind, and their professional duties, 
which consisted in producing laudatory poems on the 
births and deaths of their lords or on the coming of age 
of his heir and other similar opportune occasions, tended 
to become in their very nature mere mechanical 

Lack of Detail. — The value for historical purposes 
of the larger number of these compositions is much 
lessened by their vagueness of expression ; the bards 
seldom condescend to explicit details as to the actual 
conditions, feelings, and events of their own time ; 
they find it easier to indulge in poetic generalities 
formed closely on the models of their predecessors and 
wanting in that local colour which would have otherwise 
made of these panegyrics, composed to record intimate 
family events, a record of peculiar value. 

Insincerity. — Again, we cannot but feel that much 
of this poetry is radically insincere. Whether the actual 
performances of their lord met with their approval or 
not, the poem in his praise had to be forthcoming at 
the required moment, at risk of the loss of their emolu- 
ments or place. Even a chief devoted to the English 
cause received his due measure of laudation, though 
we must imagine that on such occasions the bardic 


pen did not flow with its customary ease. For instance, 
Tadhg mac Daire mac Brodin, or " Mac Dary," as he 
is commonly called, chief bard of the Earls of Thomond, 
says prudently in an early poem addressed to the 
Fourth Earl on his succession in 1580, that though 
he can now point out to him his duties (which he pro- 
ceeds to do at some length), praise must be deferred 
until the Earl shall have deserved it by performance. 
We can scarcely believe that the Earl's devotion to 
Elizabeth's cause is the sort of performance contem- 
plated by the bard, nevertheless on his death in 1624 
his loss is bewailed by Mac Dary as an irreparable one 
to Munster. 

Again, this same poet, in one of the poems contributed 
by him to the Contention of the Bards, after another 
panegyric of the same Earl and of the old-EngHsh 
families of the Bourkes, Barrys, Butlers, Roches, and 
Geraldines, exclaims of Clanricarde, who gained his 
order of knighthood for the wounds he received in fighting 
against Tyrone's army in the Battle of Kinsale, Decem- 
ber, 1601, and who went over to London expressly to 
tender his duty to Elizabeth in 1602, " Had we but 
Ricarde, gallant chief, in yew-abundant Ireland now; 
what other forest boughs than he (i.e., young princes 
of the Gael) could be found more excellent as tested 
in the service of the fair extent of Ireland ? " These 
services to Ireland were such as those he rendered in 
the army of Sir George Carew in 1601, when he " would 
not suffer any man to make prisoners of any of the 
Irish, but bade them kill the rebels." " No man," 
we read, " did bloody his sword more than his lordship 
did that day." * 

* Pac. Hib. Bk. II., Ch. xxi. 


The sense of the perfunctoriness of many of these 
bardic poems is a great drawback to any pleasure we 
might otherwise derive from them. 

More satisfactory, because we feel sure of its honesty, 
is such a piece as that by LoghUn Oge O'Daly, written 
about the time of the first plantations of Ulster, 
describing the violent uprooting of old customs and the 
introduction of a new and distasteful order of things. 
The fighting men of the four Provinces, he says, are 
driven to take foreign service in distant countries, and 
in their place " a conceited and impure swarm of 
foreigners " have settled down upon the lands. He 
sees with dismay the tillage of the new proprietors 
encroaching on the wild uncultivated pasture-lands, 
hitherto used only for cattle. 

" This, the land of noble Niall's posterity {i.e., Ulster), they 
portion out among themselves without leaving a jot of Flann's 
milk-yielding Plain but we find it cut up into acres. We have 
Uved to see, heavy the afifiiction, the tribal places of convention 
emptied ; the wealth of fishes perished out of the stream ; dark 
thickets of the chase turned into streets. In the House of 
Saints we find a congregation of boors, and the true service 
of God carried on meanwhile under a rude shelter of boughs 
of trees ; the night-coverings of minstrels used to litter cattle ; 
the mountain broken up into fenced fields." (O'Grady's Cat. 
of MSS. p. 375.) 

This is a good example of much anti-English poetry 
of the period. The forcible seizure of the tribal lands by 
planters from over seas and the expatriation of the old 
owners was hard enough to bear, but to the bard, who 
was the natural conservator of the old order, it became 
more difficult still when it was attended with the break up 
of the old system of hfe, on the maintenance of which 
his position and his very existence depended. The 
tillage of the old pasture and forest lands and the 


building of commercial and manufacturing towns on 
the northern water-ways was to him but an outward 
symbol of the reversal of the entire social r6gime with 
which it was everywhere accompanied. The bitterness 
of spirit with which the changes were regarded by the 
bards comes out in a multitude of poems of this period. 
Here is a specimen from a poem by Mahon O'Heffeman, 
written probably about the same date as the above, 
caustically bidding his descendants to forsake an art 
no longer useful to its patrons, or bidding them satiri- 
cally to praise the young English gallants who have 
replaced the old Gael and who alone have now the 
means to reward them for their poems. 

" My son, cultivate not the poetic art, forsake utterly the 
calling of thine ancestors ; though to poetry first of all honour 
is rightly due, she is henceforth but a portent of misery. To 
the worst of all trades cleave not, nor fashion any more thine 
Irish lay ; better than any ■well-turned poem, perfect in sound 
and science, is now esteemed obscurity, new-fangled and un- 
known. A vulgar doggrel, ' soft ' vocables that barely need 
to be of even length, plainly concoct such, without excess of 
involution, and from that poor literary form shaU thy promotion 
be the greater. Praise no man, nor any satirize — but, and if 
thou praise, laud not a Gael ; to him who might perchance 
seek to do so, to him the panegyric of a Gael means odium 
earned. . . . The good that hath been, heed it not ; the 
good that now is, dwell on that ; flatter the English gallants' 
reputation, since to have fellowship with them is now the like- 
lier. . . . FUng to oblivion the memory of their munificence, 
of old the poets treasure — kingly Gerald's blood that never 
wa'rmed to love of self, no poem ponder thou in praise of them. 
If, nowadays, none care for fair accomphshments or for the under- 
standing of instruction (far different this from fencing-in of 
arable lands), what profits it to make a poem ? " * 

Metres. — ^The compression necessitated by the metres 

"■Eg. III. Art. 71, B. Museum, and cf. O'Grady's Catalogue 
of MSS. p. 393. 


employed must also have tended to destroy originality 
of thought. Where the whole ingenuity of the mind 
was fixed upon the stringent rules under which alone 
bardic composition was permitted, only men of strong 
original power and complete mastery over their difficult 
art could rise above the consideration of the mere 
technique to the production of verses of real poetic 

The rules of the Irish Classic Metres (which went 
under the generic name of Ddn Direach or " Straight 
Verse ") required a break or suspension of the sense 
at the end of every second line, while each idea or 
thought of the poet must be completed within the 
quatrain. Hence there could be no carrying over of 
the sense from one stanza to another. Within these 
narrow limits the laws governing the construction of 
the verse were extraordinarily complicated, alliteration, 
rhyme, and number of syllables being all governed by 
precise laws. The result of this close attention to 
metrical exactitude is that a great number of the poems 
produced under this system are unimpassioned, senten- 
tious and mechanical. It would have been impossible for 
them to be otherwise ; the wonder is, that they ever rise 
into true poetry at all. O'Gnive calls the poets the 
" Schoolmen of condensed speech," and the Scottish 
bard, Mac Vurich, speaks of Teig Dall O'Higgin as 
putting into less than a half rann what others would 
take a whole crooked stanza to express.* 

Yet, in spite of all these difficulties, there are many 
examples of bardic poetry not only pure and stately 
in diction and elevated in style, but stirred by true and 

* Reliquae Celticse, Vol. II., p. 297 ; Hyde, Literary History, 
p. 537- 


deep feeling. The master-bards wielded their pon- 
derous and complicated canons of art with consummate 
facility. However the obligations of the bards to 
their own chief and Province may have tended on the 
whole to perpetuate jealousy and feuds between the 
lords of rival houses, we find here and there a poem 
which shows that some among them wrought hard for 
the union of the chiefs and were not unconscious of 
aspirations towards a national ideal. They were, 
perhaps, the only class to whom such a conception was 
possible at all. Their journeyings from province to 
province to carry the messages of their patrons, their 
occasional expeditions out of the country,* and their 
opportunities of intercourse with other members of the 
bardic community must have helped to give them a view 
of things larger than the limits of their own province 
or sept. Their education also tended to widen their 
sympathies and interests. They seldom resorted in 
their youth to the bardic schools of their own immediate 
neighbourhood ; they preferred to take their education 
in a different province, so that no interference of friends 
or relatives might be allowed to disturb the course of 
their studies. The connection with the bardic families 
of other districts, begun thus in youth, must have 
cultivated their sense of being members of a race of 
men whose learning and influence should not be confined 
strictly within the limits of one family or even of one 

Bardic Schools. — ^The Bardic Schools seem still to 

"Thus, when Shane O'Neill went at EUzabeth's command 
to London, in 1562, his chief bard, O'Gnive, was one of his 
train of attendants. 


have been in full operation at the beginning of the 
seventeenth century. Dr. Keating was educated in one 
in his own district near Clonmel, and during the first 
two years of his retirement he passed the larger portion 
of his time either in the schools or homes of different 
bards in Munster, employing his enforced leisure in 
making a collection from their manuscripts of the 
stories and legends which he afterwards threw together 
to form the earlier portions of his history. In a 
dissertation prefixed to Clanricarde's memoirs, pub- 
lished in 1744, we have an interesting account of the 
later seminaries, which lingered on until the writer's time 
in a degraded condition, though he tells us that since 
the beginning of the wars of 1641, the old bardic schools 
had died out, and not one in the country had been 
frequented since that date. His description, therefore, 
applies only to the later survivals, but these probably 
continued the system of the earlier schools so far as 
altered circumstances and reduced means allowed them 
to do so. The writer tells us that they were exclusively 
reserved for youths who were descended from poets 
and had the bardic calling in view for themselves. 
He says : " The qualifications first required were 
reading well, writing the mother-tongue and a strong 
memory. It was also necessary that the place should 
be in the solitary recess of a garden or within an inclosure 
far out of the reach of any noise. The structure was 
a snug, low hut, and beds in it at convenient distances, 
each within a small division, without much furniture 
of any kind, save only a table, some seats, and an 
arrangement for clothes to hang upon. No window 
to let in the day, nor any light at all used but that of 
candles, and these brought in at a proper season only." 


After the incoming students had been examined and 
divided into classes, a subject was proposed to each 
class to be put into verse, the special metre, with its 
number of rhymes and syllables, quartans, concord, 
correspondence, termination and union, and the rules 
that governed the use of these metrical devices, being 
explained to each class. The students then retired 
each to his own bed-chamber,* where, after spending 
a whole day in the dark composing the verses, lights 
were brought in and the result was committed to writing. 
Having given up their performances to the master, a 
fresh subject was proposed for next day, after which 
they had their meal and amused themselves until they 
retired for the night. On holidays, the neighbouring 
gentry entertained the boys at their houses ; they also 
sent constant supplies of provisions to the school, so 
that the master, who had little expense and received 
also a present from each student on his arrival, made 
his school answer very well. The term only lasted 
through the winter, from Michaelmas to the 25th of 
March, after which the youths returned to their homes. 

Causes of the Bardic Outburst. — ^Two causes in 
especial contributed to the sudden outburst of bardic 
energy at the close of the sixteenth and beginning 
of the seventeenth centuries. The Elizabethan wars, 
particularly the troubles that befell the great houses 
of O'Neill and O'Donnell, and the general despair that 
settled down on the country after the flight of the 
Earls and their large body of followers to Rome in 1607, 

♦ To this custom of composing in or on the bed, Dr. Hyde 
attributes the bardic expression Luidhe i leahaidh sgol, i.e., " to 
lie in the beds of the schools," or become a poet. 


stirred a truer note than usual and brought forth a 
number of poems of exceptionally fine quahty. The 
second cause was a sudden flaring up of the old con- 
tention for superiority between the North and the South, 
in which various bards espoused the side with which 
they were in sympathy and produced in support of 
their arguments a quantity of poems which became 
known under the general title of the " Contention of 
the Bards." 

Poems on the O'Neills and O'Donnells. — Among 
the most popular of the poems that were inspired by 
the downfall and death of the Northern chiefs or by 
the condition of the country after their departure from 
Ireland may be named the following : — A long 
anonymous poem called " The Roman Apparition " 
or " Vision " (1650), supposed to be written in Rome 
beside the graves of the two Irish Princes. As he is 
resting there, the poet sees a vision of a maiden coming 
over the hill, who breaks into a passionate lament for 
the unhappy condition of Ireland. In the course of 
the poem, the history of the English monarchs from 
Henry VIII. to Charles I. and Cromwell, and of the 
Irish leaders, especially of Owen Roe O'Neill, is 
recounted, and the chiefs of the old families are called 
upon to forget their internal dissensions which have 
helped to bring about the miseries of the country, and 
to unite for her salvation. 

Even more familiar, through Mangan's fine version 
of it, beginning " O Woman, of the piercing wail," is 
the lament addressed to Nuala, sister of O'Donnell, who 
is pictured as weeping alone over her brother's tomb 
in Rome. The bard, Owen Roe mac Ward (d. 1609), 


chief bard of the O'Donnells, tells the solitary mourner 
that had her brother been laid in a tomb in the North 
of Ireland, she would have had trains of mourners to 
share her grief. He bids her remember the deeds of 
valour achieved by those now dead, and calls on her 
to reflect that ere long she, too, will follow them. 

" For God's sake, thy weighty sorrow banish away, O daughter 
of O'Donnell 1 Short time till thou in self -same guise must 
tread the way ; the same path's weariness awaits thee. . . . 
Think on the cross that stands beside thee, and, in lieu of thy 
vain sorrowing, from off the sepulchre Uft up thine arm, and 
bid thy grief begone." 

Nuala was younger daughter of Black Hugh, and 
married her cousin, Niall Garbh, but her husband 
having gone over to the English side, she joined her 
brother in his flight. Her husband was rewarded for 
his services to the English by being shut up in the 
Tower of London, where he and his elder son both died 
in 1626. 

The poem begins A bhean fuair faill air an hfeart — 
" Woman, that hast found the tomb all lonely." 

Poems with a similar subject are Flann Magrath's 
poem upon " Ireland's Shepherdless Condition,'' a bitter 
complaint, designed to call forth new leaders, and 
Andrew mac Marcus' verses, Anocht as uaigneach Eire, 
" To-night is Ireland desolate," in which, the Earls 
being gone, the bard sees a pall settle down on Ireland ; 
all gaiety and mirth are at an end ; music is choked, 
the Irish language chained, and even tales and poems 
are no longer called for. These are only specimens of 
a large and interesting group of poems suggested by 
events of national importance. 


Contention of the Bards {lomarbhaidh na 
bhfiledh), or the " Contention between the North and 
South " {lomarhhaidh leithe Chuinn agus Mogha). This 
poetic controversy, which flared up with such energy 
in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and which 
engaged the pens of several leading poets of the 
time, was only the final expression in a contest for 
precedence that had been carried on for centuries 
between the North and South of Ireland. According 
to the ancient traditions, the country had been divided 
on the arrival of the Gael in Ireland into two parts 
(poetically styled Leith Cuinn and Leith Mogha), 
Eber or Heber, the eldest son of Milesius, becoming 
master of the Southern Provinces, and Eremon or 
Heremon, the younger, of the Northern half. From 
age to age the bards of both districts had kept up a 
dispute (which in later times became purely sentimental), 
as to which was the leading Province, the Southern 
poets claiming precedence by right of seniority, and 
those of the North contending that it was theirs by right 
of their more brilliant achievements. The controversy 
was unexpectedly renewed by Tadhg mac Daire mac 
Brodin, or Brody, familiarly known as Teigue mac Daire. 
Citing as his text two poems supposed by the bards 
to be ancient, and ascribed by them to Torna Eigeas, 
a poet who lived in the early part of the fifth century, 
Mac Daire sets out to combat their assertions in a long 
poem of his own. These supposed poems of Torna, 
who was poet to Niall of the Nine Hostages (si. 405), 
state that the Southern Prince of Cashel was obhged 
to submit to Niall and pay him a heavy tribute, besides 
offering eight hostages of rank, among them his own 
son, Cairbre, thus bringing Munster under the suzerainty 


of the Princes of the North. To this argument Teigue 
replied in thirty-one quatrains, beginning, Olc do 
thagrais, a Thorna — " 111 hast thou argued, Toma," 
in which he contends that all Torna's cleverness could 
not wrench from Munster the right derived from the 
fact that her princes were descended from the elder 
son of Milesius. This provoked a reply of eighty-seven 
verses from Lugaidh O'Clery on behalf of the North, 
beginning, A Thaidg, na tathaoir Toma — " Oh Teigue, 
revile not Torna." The style of argument employed 
may be seen by an extract from one of the poems 
contributed by O'Clery, beginning Nd brost mise, a 
mhic Dhaire. 

" Provoke me not, son of Daire, to assail the brave men of 
the fair land of Maigue. Henceforth awaken not our resentment 
nor submerge our deeds of fame, arousing me against the Dal 
Cais ; better to withhold me from them. Though the seed 
of the Dalcassians hold me dear, yet, considering all that thou 
hast done beyond the bounds of right in contending with Torna, 
shameful it were for me did I not intervene in favour of my art." 

Most of the poems are temperate in tone, and in some 
of them the history of their respective provinces is 
ransacked to find support for their cause. The con- 
troversy between two such famous men excited wide 
interest, and presently other bards joined in the contest. 
We have poems by Fearfeasa O'Cainte, Torlough 
O'Brien and Art 6g O'Keeffe in the South, and Aodh 
O'Donnell, Robert M' Arthur, Baoghalach M'Egan, and 
John O'Clery supporting the Northern side. The 
" Contention " was continued for years and the poems 
produced run in some collections to seven thousand 
lines. The object of the contest was to stimulate the 
spirit of both the native Irish and Anglo-Irish gentry 


by an appeal to the annals of their race and their pride 
in the deeds of their ancestors. The attempt was 
pathetic, for the time when such appeals could avail 
had passed away, and the uselessness of the effort to 
revive a! vanished state of things is only too well summed 
up in an epigram on the " Contention of the Bards " 
found in an MS. in the British Museum (Eg. 161), 
" Lugaid O'Clery, Teigue mac Brody and Torna Eigeas, 
the excellent oUaves of our land : dogs they are, endowed 
with much learning, that wrangle over an empty kennel," 
i.e., as dogs quarrelling when the pups of both are stolen, 
so the poets wrangled about the claims of the North 
and South when the cause of either was lost for ever. 

Teigue mac Daire mac Brodin. — Teigue mac 
Daire's efforts were not confined to his contributions 
to the " Contention of the Bards." He wrote a fine 
inauguration ode to his patron, Donogh O'Brien, the 
fourth Earl of Thomond (1580-1624), admonishing 
him with many wise counsels how a prince should rule 
his people, and also five quatrains summing up briefly 
the same maxims, with other verses to members of 
the houses of Clanricarde and Thomond. Donogh 
O'Brien had been bred at the Courts of Elizabeth and 
James I., and he returned to his own country determined 
to enforce English laws and ideas upon Munster. It 
is curious, therefore, to find his bard, not only welcoming 
him with ardour, and admonishing him in the old style, 
but apparently accepting changes which made a revolu- 
tion in the whole system of his native province without 
disapproval. It appears to have been the success of 
this O'Brien, who was appointed President of Munster 
in 1605, that inflamed his ardour and led to his poetic 


effort to reinstate his Southern Province in the position 
of pre-eminence which he beheved it ought to hold. 
His eulogy on Earl Donogh's death declares in the 
usual bardic style of paneg3Tic that his loss to Munster 
is one that cannot be repaired. 

The position of the bards was, indeed, a difficult one 
at this time ; to keep their posts they must produce 
the usual tribute of laudatory verse, even to a patron 
whose acts they disapproved, and whose career was 
spent in breaking down the system of things on the 
continuance of which their own existence was staked.* 
Some were bought over, like Angus of the Satires, to 
abuse their own race ; others were put to the rack, 
like Cuchonnacht O'Cianain, or Kennan, to extort 
" voluntary confessions " about their chiefs' plans and 
actions, and others, like Mac Daire and Tadhg Dall 
O'Higgin fared no better at the hands of their native 
lords. Mac Daire, it would appear, retained the 
patrimony and castle of his ancestors in the Barony 
of Ibrican, in the West of Co. Clare, but the Earl's 
patronage had been more in name than in deed. A 
contemporary writer states that he had seen with his own 
eyes Teigue going about without a car or coach, except 
when some rustic would give him a lift in his cart. 
Though he was head of his family, the garment that he 
wore on making a journey would not be worth ten florins, f 

This poet's end was a melancholy one. 

* " In 1572, the [then] Earl of Thomond enforced the law 
against the bards and hanged three distinguished poets, for 
which abominable and treacherous act the Earl was satirized 
and denounced." (Ann. : IV. Masters). A timid bard might be 
excused for thinking his weapon of satire insufficient protection 
against the hangman's rope. 

f Solisbaci, 1672, pp. 124-5. 


When he was an old man his estate was granted to 
a soldier in the Cromwellian army. In 1652, when 
Mac Daire was over eighty years of age, the new owner, 
coming down to take possession, found him still living 
in his old home and prepared to dispute his claims. 
Calling out in Irish, Abair do rainn anois, fhir bhig, 
" Say your rann now, little man," the brutal soldier, 
an Irishman, alas ! flung him over the cliff. Thus 
perished the last of the hereditary bards of Thomond. 

Collections of Family Poems. — Besides the poems 
connected with the O'Neills and O'Donnells, there are 
several other great groups of family poems, most of 
them produced about this time, and many of them 
referring to the public events in which the subjects 
of the verses took part. In some manuscripts we find 
these poems belonging to a single house collected 
together. Such a family collection is the " Book of 
the 0'B}nrnes," which contains over sixty poems 
in honour of the great Wicklow house of that name, 
written for the most part by bards attached to the family, 
the Mac Craiths, O'Coffeys, Mac Keoghs, O'Husseys, 
and others. Hardly less valuable is a collection of 
poems chiefly addressed to the house of the Maguires 
of Fermanagh, which belongs to the King's Library 
of Copenhagen.* Many of them are by Feargal og 
.mac an Bhaird, or Ward, and Eochaid O'Hosey, or 
Hussey, two fine poets, many of whose productions 
are still extant, others by two of the O'Clerys, Irial 
and John O'Higgin, Conor O'Daly, Maolin O'Cainte, 
and others. Most of these poems were written to 

* Edited by Dr. Ch. Stern in Zeit. fiir Celt. Phil. II., pp. 


Cuchonnacht Maguire, who died in 1589, and to his 
two sons, Hugh and Cuchonnacht 6g Maguire. The 
latter followed in the train of O'Neill to Italy, and fell 
ill at Genoa of a fever which also prostrated Tjrrone and 
Tyrconnel, and died there is 1608. His half-brother, 
Hugh, married a daughter of Hugh O'Neill, and succeeded 
his father, Cuchonnacht, in the chieftaincy in 1589, in 
direct opposition to old Irish customs of tanistry, by 
which a senior kinsman claimed possession. Hugh's 
connection with the powerful O'Donnells through his 
mother, Nuala, however, secured his elevation. Let 
us take as a specimen of the intimate internal knowledge 
we sometimes get of family history through the poems 
of the bards, the poems written by Eochaid O'Hosey, 
or Hussey, on this young Hugh Maguire. 

Eochaid G'Hoaey, or Hussey. — We have a poem 
by O'Hussey written on the occasion of Hugh Maguire's 
inauguration as chief, full of exaltation at his accession, 
and another, probably written immediately afterwards, 
on his own elevation to be chief poet or ollave to the 
new chief.* 

Next comes a poem commemorating a winter 
campaign of the young lord in alliance with Hugh O'Neill 
in Munster in 1599-1600, undertaken by O'Neill for the 
purpose, as Fynes Moryson tells us, of setting " as great 
a combustion as he could " in that Province, f The 
poet, sitting at home in Fermanagh, bewails the intense 
cold and the great hardships that he feels sure are being 

* For quotations from this poem see p. 156, supra. 

^ Moryson says that O'Neill entered Munster with 2,500 foot 
and 200 horse under the religious pretence of visiting the sacred 
relic at Holy Cross in Co. Tipperary. — Bk. II. 


endured by the chief and his followers in the open 
camps during the winter season. 

Too cold for Hugh I deem this night, the drops so heavily 
downpouring are a cause for sadness ; biting is this night's 
cold — ^woe is me that such is our companion's lot. 

In the cloud's bosoms the water-gates of heaven are flung 
open ; small pools are turned by it to seas ; all its destructive- 
ness hath the firmament spewed out. 

A pain to me that Hugh Maguire, to-night, lies in a stranger's 

'Neath lurid glow of lightning-bolts, and angry armed clouds' 
clamour ; 

A woe to us that in the Province of Clann Daire,' our well- 
beloved is couched 

Betwixt a coarse cold-wet and grass-clad ditch and the im- 
petuous fury of the heavens. 

The poet comforts himself with the assurance that 
(and this not for the first time f) Maguire will warm 
himself and his followers by setting the whole country 
in a blaze, and that the burning cinders made by the con- 
flagration of the mansions and courts of Munster will 
thaw the pellets of the frost and warm the manacles 
of ice that bind the taper fingers of their hands. 

This poem is well-known in Mangan's free version 
of it: 
" Where is my chief, my master, this black night ? movrone." 

• i.e., the District of Curoi mac Daire, who, according to the 
legends, was a king of S.W. Munster in the time of Cuchulain. 

+ " The mischief is not new," says the poet. Perhaps he 
was thinking of the act of Maguire two years before (1597), 
on which occasion he went to punish the town of Mullingar, 
when " they left not any property of gold, silver, copper, of 
iron armour or of over-sea wares, or any other thing that could 
be carried or driven from the town, but they took away with 
them ; when they came back they set the town in a crimsoned 
blaze and conflagration, and so returned safely to their homes." 
(IV. Masters.) 


But the original is in strict Deibhide metre, the most 
difi&cult and scientific of all the Classical forms of verse. 

It would seem to have been during this descent into 
Munster, or one not much later, that Hugh was slain 
in a sudden and unexpected attack made by him near 
the town of Cork on Sir Warham St. Leger and his 
party. Sir Warham discharged his pistol at Maguire's 
head at the same moment as the latter struck at St. 
Leger with his horseman's staff, both of them d57ing 
the same night of their wounds.* O'Hosey wrote a 
lament on his death, but he omits all mention of the 
circumstances. He likens Maguire's career and end 
in an elaborate allegory to that of the pelican, who 
gives her heart's blood to feed her young and endeavours 
to protect them from venomous serpents which hang 
about the nest, seeking to harm the fledglings. The 
snakes represent the English, who are on the watch 
to destroy the " race of Conn," or the tribes of the 
North. His two other poems to the same patron are 
a lament on hearing that he has had his hand wounded 
in some fray at an earlier stage in his career, and a 
humorously-worded appeal to Hugh that in dispensing 
his favours to other bards he will not overlook his own 
chief poet, O'Hosey himself. 

Angus of the Satires. — ^Two other poets of note 
in this period claim a separate notice. Angus the 
Red O'Daly, called Angus na naor " of the Satires," 
or Bard Ruadh, the " Red Bard " (d. 1617). Of all 
the literary class in Ireland, he it was who most shame- 
fully sold his art and his position to revile his country 
for the benefit of his country's foes. He was employed 
♦ Pac. Hib. Bk. I., Ch. 2 ; IV. Masters, at 1600 a.d. 


by Sir George Carew and Lord Mount joy to use his 
dreaded weapon of bardic satire against the native 
Gaelic families in the kingdom, as well as the " old 
English " or Anglo-Normans who held to their side. 
For this purpose he travelled up and down the country, 
staying at the various houses of the gentry, whose 
generosity he rewarded by holding them and their 
hospitalities up to ridicule in a lengthy satire of the 
most abusive and scurrilous type. The only families 
that escaped his pen were the Mac Canns of the Upper 
Bann, because he could find no evil to say of them, and 
the O'Donnells of Donegal, here called Clann Dalaigh, 
or Daly, from the name of an ancestor, because, as he 
openly says, he is afraid of their vengeance. " If 
I lampoon the Clann Daly, the [whole remainder] of 
old Adam's race were no protection to me ; if the 
Clann Daly protect me, I may lampoon the [whole 
remainder] of Adam's race." Vengeance did overtake 
the satirist, however, though not from the hands of 
the O'Donnells. Angus appeared one day at a banquet 
at Ikerrin in Co. Tipperary, at the table of the 
O'Meaghers, on the poverty of whose mansion he had 
made some scurrilous remark. During the banquet, 
and at the command of his host, a servant stabbed him 
to the heart. Before he died he gave vent to one 
more of his punning quatrains, retracting all he had 
formerly said : 

Every false judgment ever I made 
On the good men (nobles) of Munster, I make good ; 
The meagre youth of grey Meagher has made 
As good a false judgment now upon me." * 
•5A6 A^ tngAf ■o'AmBtieACAitS jiiAm 

Ajt niAitib mnmAn, rtiAiritn iat); 

"Do f«5 dfAtiAC lileACAifi t6ic, torn, 

An oijieAT) T>'Aiti6tie«cA)t) otim ! 


There seems no doubt that the object which Angus' 
employers had in mind was to stir up angry passions 
among the native gentlemen, of which they might reap 
the advantage. The encouragement given to the native 
cause by the odes of the bards was always a source 
of annoyance to the English leaders, and we find even 
so good an Irishman as Florence MacCarthy (elected 
MacCarthy More by Hugh O'Neill) advising the English 
Government, while he was himself confined in the Tower, 
to bribe the bards to bring over the Irish gentry to the 
English interest. He wrote this advice in 1602, and 
it may have been in consequence of it that the services 
of Angus were retained. How much heart the Red 
Bard had in his disgraceful task we cannot tell, but the 
fact that he was cited before the Lord President and 
Council in this very year, 1602, for making offers to 
Owen O'Sullivan on behalf of the " rebels," to persuade 
him to combine with them, seems to show that he 
endeavoured to serve both parties at once. He received 
from both his just reward. (Pac. Hib. iii., ch. 3). 

Angus O'Daly lived at Ballyorrone on the S.W. of 
Co. Cork. When a large part of Cork was made over 
to Sir George Carew he was permitted to remain on 
condition of becoming a " rimer and chronicler " to 
Carew and his successors. He appears to have been 
ready to obey their commands. 

Teigue Dall O'Higgin. — ^The poet who occupies 
the most conspicuous place in the literary history of 
this epoch is Teigue O'Higgin, whose blindness gained 
him the sobriquet of Dall " the Wind." He belonged 
to Co. SHgo, and his poems are addressed to the neigh- 
bouring lords, such as the Maguires, O'Neills, O'Conor- 


Sligbs, and O'Rourkes. Teigue Dall rises far above 

his contemporaries in the clearness and briUiancy of 

the pictures which his poems convey of the actual 

social conditions in which he finds himself, as well as 

in the directness and easy flow of the language 

in which these pictures are conveyed to the reader. 

Almost alone among the poets of his day, he eschews 

generaUties and gives us a sharp and detailed impression 

of the scenes which called forth his verse. We seem 

to be actually present at the banquet in Mac Sweeney's 

house ; we hear about us all the bustle of the courtyard 

of Cuchonnacht Oge Maguire, crowded as it is with 

fighting men, artificers and poets, with baying dogs 

returning from the chase, and wounded sufferers being 

tended by the leech, while on the lake a fine flotilla 

rides at anchor ; we feel keenly interested in the result 

of his stirring appeals to Maguire or O'Rourke. That 

he himself was held in esteem in his lifetime is shown 

by the gifts presented to him by poets holding positions 

as honourable as his own, the bards of O'Neill, Mac 

William of Clanricarde, and Mac William-Burke, as 

well as by the cordiaUty extended to him at all times by 

Cathal O'Conor-Sligo, who, as he says in one of his 

poems, ever shared with him his innermost councils, 

and secured for him both respect and due rewards 

from those neighbouring chiefs to whom he had offered 

poems. Teigue, however, seems at one time to have 

fallen into disgrace with Cathal's brother, Donall, on 

account of a poem addressed to him, and for a year or 

more he was a wanderer in the country, afraid to show 

his face at home ; finally, he appealed to Donall's wife 

to intercede for him, and comically bids her to mope 

before her husband and to refuse him any assistance 


or kindness until he consents to be reconciled with his 

Teigue set himself ta endeavour to combine the 
chiefs who had split up the septs into small divisions 
under separate leaders, each of whom was fighting for 
his own hand. Thus the Mac Mahons, O'Kellys and 
Maguires, he says, though they are rightly one sept, 
" pull not together . . . and this is the cause of their 
weakness ; " they should confederate under one leader. 
His passionate appeal to O'Rourke is founded on the 
same theme ; why will he not arise arid lead a united 
country against the English ? He warns him that by 
complaisance nothing solid can be obtained ; he is 
already hated, why should he not make himself feared 
as well ? * And he finally calls upon him to arise and 
lay waste the lands of Meath and Ulster, as Bingham 
and Essex were laying waste Connacht and Munster. 
There is great force and sheer terror in this poem, the 
language is solemn and elevated, the rhjrthm grave 
and sustained. It reads like the denunciation of the 
Psalmist or Hebrew Prophets against those who carried 
the nation captive and destroyed their lands. 

" Let the Pale's mansions become a covert for vwld creatures ; 
Each highroad let him clothe with coat of grass, 
So that on Tara's green-sward he shall leave 
But hosts of roe-deer, droves of roaming wolves. 
In the Boyne's country misery leave behind 
Bir of the banks, clothed with wide-spreading boughs. 
So that a woman from Meath' s pasture-lands 
Must munch a morsel of her first child's heart." 

* O'Rourke seems, by all the reports of him made by English 
deputies and officers, to have done both. For example : Sir 
Henry Sidney to Privy Council, DubUn, 1576, writes: "And 
first for O'Rourke (Owryrke), I found hym the proudest man 
that ever I delt with in Irelande ; " and cf, Pac. Hib. iii., ch. 20. 


Teigue does not often fall into the exaggerations 
common to most of the contemporary poetry, but a 
notable exception is his address to Turlough Luineach 
O'Neill (a prince to whom a multitude of poems are 
extant)* in which he and his fellow chiefs are said to 
be " not men at all but Angels in human body," with 
other equally preposterous comparisons. 

Teigue is fond of introducing into his poems illus- 
trations taken from fables or legends ; these often occupy 
a great portion of the poem and it is not always easy 
to see how the moral fits in with the main subject ; 
he seldom condescends to satire, and is on the whole 
serious and dignified in style. He lost his life in a 
melancholy way. Six men of the O'Haras passing 
one day by his house, and driven by hunger, entered 
and ate up all they could find to lay hands on. Stung 
by anger, Teigue on this occasion poured out his feelings 
in a stinging satire, accusing them of being a lot of 
ragged, lazy loons and no gentlemen, which they so 
resented that they returned, murdered his wife and 
child, cut out his tongue, and so ill-used him that he died 
shortly afterwards. The actual date is uncertain, but 
his murderers were attainted of his murder in June, 
1617, and their lands were forfeited to the king. He 
thus describes the O'Haras, feigning to have mistaken 
them for a troop of kerne or common foot soldiers, 
an insult not to be forgiven by members of an old 
Irish family. 

" The first man that we saw and the best-harnessed of the 
kerne was a young fellow whom for his whole get up a groat 

• He succeeded Shane O'Neill, to whom as representative 
of the senior line he was bitterly opposed. He died in 1595. 
He was a prominent figure in the Ireland of his day. 


would have amply paid ; one that ne'er shirked either drink 
or play. 

The second (as I made out) that marched at the regiment's 
head, a lean chap, whom his very marrow had forsaken — I will 
not suffer to escape unreckoned. 

The third poor loon's equipment consisted in an old spear 
and in a soft gapped axe (himself and his ancient family axe 
in a set-to indeed !) Alas for battle-armament so sorry ! " * 

And SO he continues to lampoon all the six intruders. 

■* Translated by Standish H. O' Grady from H. i. 17, f. 116, 
T.C.D. ; cf. Cat. of MSS. in B. Museum, pp. 439-442. 

The Jacobite Poets. 

A remarkable outburst of poetry greeted the close 
of the seventeenth and the opening of the eighteenth 
centuries. At this epoch modern Irish poetry may be 
said to have begun. Unlike the older bardic poetry, 
it sprang not from a professional class but from the 
people themselves ; it was democratic alike in origin 
and in tone. The bards who produced it were men of 
the people, and they reflected in their songs, as the 
aristocratic poets had never been able to do, the dreams, 
the hopes and the sufferings of the class to which they 
belonged. Their very method of expression changed ; 
and instead of the strict syllabic forms of the classical 
school of poets, we have simple lyric songs in a great 
variety of metres. Poetry had left the courts of 
chieftains and the schools of the bards ; it sprang at 
last spontaneously from the cottages of the poor. It 
is, when at its best, warm with a tenderness and pathos, 
or strong with a passion of revolt that the bards in 
happier times rarely felt, or that the means at their 
disposal seldom permitted them to express. 

The new poetry is partly social, made up of love songs, 
drinking songs, reUgious verse, and verse on personal 
topics ; and partly political, voicing the feeling of the 
country for the house of Stuart. 

It sprang out of the changed conditions in Ireland 
in the period which gave it birth, and to understand it, 
it is necessary briefly to summarise the political events 


which brought about the state of things which we find 
reflected in the poetry. 

At the close of Elizabeth's reign Munster lay waste, 
stricken with the plague and famine consequent on the 
devastations which followed the suppression of the 
rebellions of Desmond and Tyrone. It seemed natural 
that the hopes of the Irish should concentrate them- 
selves upon the accession of the first of the Stuarts 
to the throne of England. James I. was son of Mary 
Queen of Scots, and he had been educated as a Catholic ; 
when he ascended the throne it was beUeved that the 
Catholic churches and schools would be re-opened, and 
that liberty of worship and equal rights would be restored 
all over the country. But James pursued in his 
Plantation of Ulster the same policy as Mary had 
carried out in Leix and Offally, and Elizabeth in Mun- 
ster ; and so far was he from framing means of relief 
for the Catholics that he revived and enforced with 
fresh energy the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy, 
which had fallen very much into disuse towards the 
close of Elizabeth's reign. Priests were banned, churches 
closed, and schools and colleges suppressed even more 
rigorously than before. 

Trinity College, DubUn, which had been founded in 
1591, was strongly Protestant and Puritan, and it was 
largely in order to counteract its influence that many of 
the CathoHc colleges and schools had been recently 
resuscitated by the energy of the Jesuits, and were in a 
flourishing condition at the beginning of James' reign. 
But this was not to last. In Galway, a pubUc school 
kept by Alexander Lynch, probably the father of John 
Lynch, the learned author of " Cambrensis Eversus," 
which attracted pupils from all parts of Ireland, was 


ordered to be closed after the visitation of 1615. At 
Waterford, whose schools were said to be " more like 
universities than schools," the educational establishments, 
though they lingered on in an unobtrusive fashion till 
1632, lost their most celebrated scholars and teachers 
about the same time. A great exodus of learned men went 
out from Ireland to adorn positions in foreign universities. 
The Irish Minorite Convent at Louvain was founded 
in 1616, and the Irish College of St. Isidore's at Rome 
by Rev. Luke Wadding in 1618. These, in addition 
to the already existing Irish Colleges in Spain, received 
and benefited by the exclusion of the Catholic scholars 
from their native country. Among those who went 
abroad were the Jesuit, Stephen White, who became 
Professor of Scholastic Theology at Ingoldstadt and 
Rector of Cassel College, and Rev. Luke Wadding, who 
went from Waterford to Louvain and thence to Rome 
to found the Irish College of St. Isidore's. At Louvain 
we find Rev. John Colgan, who was carrying on his great 
collection of the lives of the Irish Saints under the 
general direction of Rev. Hugh Ward of Donegal, 
Guardian of the Convent at Louvain, and who was 
assisted in his work by the researches of the Irishmen, 
Stephen White and Patrick Fleming abroad, and by 
Michael O'Clery, Br. Brendan O'Connor and others in 
Ireland. The interest awakened at this juncture in 
the history and antiquities of the mother country was 
quite unprecedented, and was shared alike by Catholics 
and Protestants. Archbishop Ussher brought the 
prodigious resources of his learning to bear upon the 
ecclesiastical traditions of Ireland, and Sir James Ware, 
Ljmch, O'Flaherty and Mac Firbis in various ways 
illustrated its secular history ; while at the very same 


period the O'Clerys and their companions were compihng 
in Donegal the native records and Annals. As a result 
of a similarity of tastes, a kindly personal feehng seems 
to have existed between these men which, in their 
private relations, transcended the bitterness of party 
strife or of religious differences. A correspondence 
was kept up between them and they mutually furnished 
each other with materials for their respective labours. 

The stern rule of Strafford was followed by the 
RebelUon of 1641, and from 1649-1652 Cromwell's 
army swept over the country. In the confiscations 
and sale of lands that followed most of the remaining 
gentry of both Anglo-Irish and old native race were 
dispossessed and their lands given instead of pay 
to Cromwellian soldiers, or sold wholesale to " adven- 
turers," who frequently purchased in London properties 
which they had never seen, and upon which the old 
owners were still living. Many of these owners were 
reduced to becoming tenants upon their own lands 
under the heel of the new possessors, while in some 
districts, especially in the wilder parts of Kerry, the 
younger men, instead of sinking into small farmers, or 
vacating the district in which they had lived, formed 
themselves into armed bands of marauders who took 
shelter in the mountain fastnesses and swooped down 
upon the " new English," as they were called, who had 
settled upon their lands. These men were known in 
the records of their day as " Tories " and" Rapparees." 
They became a terror to the neighbourhoods in which 
they congregated, especially in Kerry, where the strong- 
hold of the O'Donoghues of the Glen became the head- 
quarters of a strong party known as the " Rapps of 


The country was swarming with spies and adventurers 
in search for lands, and with outlaws driven from their 
possessions. To the majority of the CathoHc population 
every avenue of respectability and every post of trust 
in the State, the army, the law or any learned profession 
whatever was closed, and the life and liberty of every 
Cathohc proprietor or peasant was at the mercy of any 
ill-disposed or designing neighbour. It would be 
impossible to over-rate the miseries, anxieties and 
degradation caused by the condition of the country 
and destined to be aggravated to intensity by the 
Penal legislation. 

James II., whose accession to the throne in 1685 
had once more raised the hopes of the depressed people, 
had fled before the Battle of the Boyne (1690) was 
well over, and secured the safety of his own person 
in France, leaving his troops under Colonel Talbot, 
whom he had created Earl of Tyrconnell, and Sarsfield, 
to struggle against hopeless odds. The terrible 
defeat of Aughrim in 1691, and the fall of Limerick 
which followed, compelled Sarsfield to surrender. 
Twenty thousand of his soldiers, the best blood of the 
nation, followed him to France. Their departure, 
which was the sjmibol of the extinction of all national 
hopes, is known to posterity as the " Flight of the 
Wild Geese." Green, the historian, who is never inclined 
to favour the Irish cause, says at this point, " When 
the wild cry of the women who stood watching their 
departure was hushed, a silence as of death settled 
down upon Ireland. For a hundred years the country 
remained at peace, but it was the peace of despair. 
The most terrible legal tyranny under which a nation 
has ever groaned avenged the rising under Tyrconnell." 


It was out of this silence of despair that the democratic 
poetry of the eighteenth century arose, and it cannot 
be understood without recaUing the circumstances 
which gave it birth. Unlike the poetry of the bards, 
it was not produced to order ; it was the spontaneous 
expression of the people's hopes and griefs. Its note 
is gloomy, often despairing ; it is at times satirical, 
fierce and vindictive ; it is limited in the range of its 
ideas, full of repetitions and often careless in style, 
yet, with all its faults, it cannot be read unmoved. 

Centre in Munster. — The centre of this new out- 
burst of song was in Munster ; poets of Clare, Kerry, 
Cork and Waterford chiefly contributed to it. No 
doubt this prominence of Munster is largely due to the 
fact that the language lingered for a longer time over 
large portions of the Southern Province than elsewhere. 
Not only was poetry freely produced and fostered there, 
but it was handed down to later times in numberless 
hand-written collections of verse usually copied and 
possessed by village schoolmasters, and it was cherished 
and preserved in the memories of the Irish-speaking 
peasants, to whom even at the present day many of 
the songs of Tadhg Gaedhealach O'SulUvan and other 
bards are famiUar. Owing to this preservation of the 
language, the loss of manuscripts has not been so great 
in the South as in other parts of Ireland. Though 
much poetry was produced in Leinster and Ulster 
and Connacht, less of it survives to the present day; 
it is no longer possible to recover, as it is from Munster, 
the larger portion of the output of whole groups of 

Change of Style. — Simultaneously with the out- 


burst of democratic song, there came into existence 
a completely new method of versification, which helped 
to free the poetry from the close restraints under which 
the older bards had worked, and made it a more flexible 
and simple instrument of expression for an unlearned 
class of writers. With the closing of the schools of 
the bards and the extinction of the system of things 
under which the bards had flourished, the opportunity 
for the study of the old classic metres passed away. 
The poets of Munster in the eighteenth century under- 
went no such strict discipline in the acquirement of 
their art as was given in the old bardic schools. Most 
of them were schoolmasters themselves, or they pursued 
the profession of teaching in the intervals of irregular 
work of other kinds, harvesting, potato digging, or 
peddling from village to village. But the hedge-schools 
in which they taught were very different from the 
old-estabUshed schools of the ollaves or from the later 
founded colleges which gave such a fine classical 
education that the gentlemen in Ireland in the sixteenth 
and early seventeenth century could use Latin freely 
in conversation and writing, and, as a rule, did use it 
in their communications with those Englishmen who 
did not understand the native tongue. It was no longer 
possible to obtain this broad education in Ireland, and 
only the few had the means to seek it abroad in foreign 
universities. Hence, though one or two of the later 
poets, like Seaghan Claragh mac Donnell and the wild 
Donagh Roe mac Conmara, were educated men, both 
having been designated for the priesthood in early 
life, the larger number were obliged to pick up their 
learning as best they might and to pass it on in rustic 
cottage schools gathered hurriedly together in the 


winter-time when agricultural work or trade was slack. 
Though most of the poets were men with a natural 
taste for learning and were better educated than their 
fellows, their classical knowledge, which they were 
always glad to find an opportunity of parading, probably 
did not go very deep, and of general information they 
seem to have had very little at all. It is almost with 
a shock of surprise that we find Mac Donnell, the most 
cultivated of all the later Munster poets, alluding 
to or celebrating foreign events in his poems ; but in his 
case, this is the natural result of his period of education 
abroad. Most of the poets are oblivious of any larger 
world than that in which they were born and bred, and 
which they had no opportunities of enlarging either by 
reading and travel, or by mixing with men of education. 
It is difficult to tell at what precise moment the 
metres of the bards gave way before the new and free 
system of versification adopted by the modern school. 
We find poets like David O'Bruadair and Geoffrey 
O'Donoghue of the Glen still clinging occasionally 
to the old forms of dan direach, though writing with 
ease in modern accentuated metres ; but, in general, the 
change was rapid and complete, and it roughly coincided 
with the beginning of the eighteenth century, that is, 
with the moment of the break-up of the bardic schools.* 
So long as the old system of training for the bardic 
profession existed the new metric was regarded els a 
loose and illiterate style of versification to be resisted 
in every way by poets of repute anxious for the literary 

* Dr. Hyde remarks that one of the last specimens he has 
met with of deibhide metre is in a poem in praise of the O'Conors 
of Balanagare, by one Rev. Patrick O'Curreen, in 1734, but 
they were occasionally composed later than this. 


Standing of their craft. Many of the poems of the 
seventeenth century bards voice this distaste and 
contempt for verse produced in an irregular way and 
in unauthorized metres. It is evident from them that 
poems in non-classical metres were composed even as 
far back as about the beginning of the seventeenth 
century. A poem we have already quoted speaks of 
the composition of " vulgar doggrels," which were 
considered good enough to replace the " well-turned 
poem, perfected in sound and science," if merely " the 
lines should be of even length," and the sounds " soft," 
however poor and obscure the total effect.* The author 
seems here to point to the use of free metres and to the 
employment of vowel-rhyme which was distinctive of 
them. Andrew Mac Curtin, again, a century later, 
between 1718-1743, complains to James mac Donnell, 
of Kilkee, that he has to fit himself for an evil fashion 
never practised in Erin before, " and to frame a left- 
handed awkward ditty of a thing " {i.e., a poem of the 
new school), because the gentlemen of the country will 
give more for it than for a well-made lay or poem. 
More respect, he says, is accorded to a dry half-educated 
boor, " who has no clear view of either alliteration or 
poetry," than to the highly trained bard or man of 
song. He himself is now thought a fool if he composes 
a lay in good taste, but he is not of this opinion, and he 
protests that he will still continue to write after the 
strict manner of his craft, t 
It has been supposed that Ireland owed this revolution 

* p. 160, from MS. Egerton III., cf. O'Grady's Cat. of MS. 
in the British Museum, p. 393. 

t cf. Brian O'Looney's " Collection of Poems written by Clare 
bards," Dub., 1863. 


in style to Scotland, where, as early as the close of the 
sixteenth century, poems by an old nurse * of the 
family of Mac Leod had been composed in a variety 
of free vowel metres. There is no doubt that the con- 
nection between Ireland and Scotland during the 
Jacobite period was of the closest possible kind, and 
that any literary change that affected the one country 
affected the other. They knew each other's poems, 
and sometimes closely imitated them. Yet it seems 
unnecessary to seek anywhere out of Ireland the source 
of the new movement. Varied metres, not included 
among the classical forms of the bardic system, had 
been in use in Ireland from the earliest times. We find 
songs interspersed in the old romances, such as the 
Tain bo Cuailnge, the Sick-bed of Cuchulain, the Death 
of the Sons of Usnach, that, careful as is their structure, 
remain independent of the fixed models. And we may 
imagine that although the special training in the schools 
of the bards rigidly preserved the authorized metric 
among the professional class, there must always have 
been singers among the uneducated peasants who 
produced and sang ballads and lyrics expressive of 
simple personal feeling in some free native form of verse. 
Naturally these rustic lays, so despised by the regular 
literary men, were not copied by them into their books 
and were therefore not preserved. It is quite possible 
that many of the exquisite folk songs of Ireland stretch 
further back into the past than their existing modern 
form would lead us to suppose. 

The changes in the new poetry consisted (1) in the 
use of vowel-rhyme instead of consonantal rhyme, and 

* She was Mary, d. of Alaster Rua mac Leod, born in the Island 
of Harris in 1569. Nine poems are ascribed to her, 


(2) in the use of accent and stress instead of a certain 
number of syllables in each line. The new writers, in fact, 
broke utterly with the past and flung themselves at once 
into a modern and perfectly free style of verse, varied 
according to the requirements of the subject. The painful 
measuring of syllable by syllable, the involved system of 
alliteration, the difficult internal rhymes, the weighing 
of consonant against consonant, all that complex and 
laborious framework which it cost the aspirant so fnany 
years to acquire, and the proficient such terrible com- 
pression of thought to execute, was laid aside, and a 
perfectly free and flexible system took its place. The 
greatest gain was undoubtedly the introduction of 
vowel-rhyme, for the Irish language is peculiarly rich 
in its vowel-sounds, and for the first time the full har- 
monious tones of the mother-tongue were brought into 
play. The richness and profuseness of the language 
became, indeed, a snare to many of the Munster bards ; 
they revel in mere sound, and sacrifice to it both sense 
and dignity. Poets like Owen Roe O'SuUivan are in 
constant danger of degrading their art from its natural 
and just use as a vehicle of expression for thought or 
feeling into mere sound-painting ; they attempt to produce 
music by words, regardless of the poverty of thought 
which this luxuriance of colour often only half conceals. 
Their unbridled use of alliteration became a jest among 
themselves, a mere feat of mental dexterity, entire 
poems or pages being formed of lists of alliterative 
adjectives strung together without care or reason. 
Nowhere does the copiousness of Munster Irish come 
out as it does in these poems of the eighteenth century, 
lists of adjectives which have in Irish some slight 
shade of difference of meaning having in English 


perhaps only a single equivalent word. The fulness of 
the two languages hes in different directions ; in matters 
of description, in which the English method of expression 
is usually terse and simple, the Irish is profuse, and at 
its worst verbose. The richness of language in some 
of these Munster poems is extraordinary ; nothing hke it 
is to be found in either earlier Irish or in Scottish poetry. 

Poets of the Stuart Cause.— Both in Scotland 
and in Ireland the misfortunes of the Stuarts awoke a 
passion of sympathy which voiced itself in a remarkable 
outburst of lyric poetry. In Scotland the cause of the 
Jacobites was a national one, belonging to the heart 
and traditions of the people ; the Stuarts were their 
own princes, their own kith and kin, and all the strong 
clan attachment, strengthened by the pathos of mis- 
fortune, went into their feeling for the family. The 
note of the Scottish Jacobite lyrics is therefore the note 
of personal affection, especially in those addressed 
to Prince Charlie, whose romantic adventures called 
out the devoted and chivalrous warmth of the whole 
nation. He threw himself on their hospitality, and they 
rewarded him with a love like that of a mother for 
her son, as well as that of a clan for its tribal chief. 

In Ireland the personal tie was wanting. Prince 
CharUe never set foot in Ireland ; and there was little of 
the excitement and energy of active events to arouse 
enthusiasm. The Stuart tradition there was not a 
happy one. In every way the hopes of their adherents 
was betrayed. Yet the loyalty to the house of Stuart 
survived all shocks. To them the people looked as 
their deliverers, the inaugurators of a happier age 
wherein Ireland should once more take her place 


among the nations, and in which the religion to 
which her people had proved their devotion in days of 
peril and to which they were bound by hereditary 
attachment, should once more be recognised and 
honoured throughout the whole country. Under these 
different circumstances the Jacobite lyrics of the two 
countries took a different tone. The Irish songs are 
seldom addressed to the welcome of the Stuarts directly, 
they are addressed rather to Ireland, who is represented 
as waiting impatiently for their return. She is pictured 
as a widowed woman, weeping the loss of her spouse, 
as a bride awaiting the coming of her lover, or as the 
lonely wife bereft of her husband and saviour. She 
is the passionately beloved one, presented under all 
manner of winning aspects, called by all manner of 
delicate fanciful titles. It is frequently impossible 
to tell whether a song was written originally to some 
single woman or to the country under a female name. 
The names are sometimes historic ; we find her called 
after Grainne Mhaol, the spirited princess who, from her 
Connacht fastness, defied Queen Elizabeth ; sometimes 
she is the Roisin Dubh or the "Little Black Rose," 
or she is Maggie Laidir, " Maggie the Strong," or 
Little Mary Cuillenan, or Kathleen Ni Uallacain ; or 
she is the Secret Beloved One, or the " Heart's Nut," 
with many other sweet caressing names. For the 
Jacobite Princes, too, the poets invented graceful titles ; 
the Young Pretender is the Ur-ghas 6g. or " Fresh 
young Branch," or " the Wandering Prince without 
a name ; " even the title Paistheen Finn, or " Fair 
Child," seems sometimes to have been applied to him. 

The Aisling or Vision. — These reveries of bereaved 



fair women, where they are not pure love songs, take 
in Ireland a stereotyped form known as the aisling 
or Vision. Aislingi are as old as Irish poetry itself, 
but in this period, instead of signifying in a general way 
any imaginative subject called up before the mind of 
the writer, these reveries became the standard poetic 
framework within which the muse of the Munster 
bards might expand into patriotic praise of their native 
land and into hopes of a speedy dehverance from every 
oppression through the coming of the Stuarts. The 
vision of a beautiful woman appears to the poet when, 
either on his bed or beside some purling brook, 
he falls asleep. The charms of this lady are described 
at great length, the beauty of her hair, in particular, 
which is curled and twisted and plaited and waved 
and branched and ringletted in a variety of ways for 
which the English tongue can find no equivalents, 
being dwelt upon with much prolixity of language. 
She is, in a general way, a symbolical figure of Erin, 
but in particular she is one of the local shee or fairy 
princesses of Munster, generally CUodna, the Tuatha 
de Danann princess who died at Glandore Harbour 
in Kerry, and who gave her name to Cliodna's Wave, \ 
which wailed whenever a national calamity was immi- 
nent ; or Aoibhill (Evall) the banshee of the Dalcassian 
race, whose dwelling was at Craiglea, near Killaloe. 

The poet, entranced at the vision, plies her with 
questions, calling up the whole of his classical and 
antiquarian resources in order to find out who she is. 
Is she Emer, wife of Cuchulain, or Deirdre, wife of the 
son of Usnach ; or is she Venus or Juno ? or Helen of 
Troy or Isis ? At the torrent of inquiries with which 
she is assailed, the maiden usually takes flight ; but 


the poet following her through the fairy haunts of Erin, 
she is finally re-discovered, and she then reveals herself 
as Ireland bereaved or unwedded, waiting for the 
return of her spouse. Though in the hands of the later 
poets this convention is apt to become mechanical, 
some of the finest lyrics of the period are founded upon 
the theme. There is something truly pathetic in the 
innumerable versions in which the changes are rung 
upon this well-worn and hopeless note. Some of the 
noblest of Egan O'Rahilly's poems are aislingi ; such 
are his deUcious Gile na Gile, " Whiteness of Whiteness," 
which is unsurpassed for subtlety of rhythm and 
mournful melody of sound ; or the grave and long-hned 
Mac an Ceannuighe, " The Merchant's Son," i.e., the 
Old Pretender, a poem burdened with sorrow. Profound 
affliction and deep pathos are felt through every line. 

Before dealing with the three poets who best represent 
the Jacobite poetry of Ireland, it will be necessary to 
allude to one of the writers who immediately preceded 
them, and whose verse deals also largely with political 

David O'Bruadair, who was born in Limerick or Cork 
and began to write before the year 1650, stands midway 
between the old school of bards and the new school 
of Munster poets who were beginning to vary the old 
classic forms of verse by experiments in accented metres. 
He composed with vigour and facility in both kinds of 
verse. He tells us that though he " had EngUsh," he was 
" seldom able to fetter his tongue to the point of speaking 
it," and one of his stanzas ridicules those who tried to 
converse in what he calls " the conceited and mouth- 
parching English." A Jacobite by sympathy, he lived 


in the time of SarsMd, and witnessed the stirring 
events that preceded and followed the surrender of 
Limerick in 1691. What gives Ms poems an unusual 
interest is that the larger number refer to the political 
and historic affairs which he saw with his own eyes. 
His admiration for Sarsfield was unbounded, and it is 
expressed in a poem written to him as Earl of Lucan 
in 1690, when he had routed the English at BaUineety, 
Co. Limerick, and burst the great cannon that they 
were bringing from DubUn to besiege Limerick with. 
It begins : " King of the Round World, Who madest 
it and all things that on it created are. Redeem Ireland 
out of this war's extremity and knit her kindreds in 
love together." 

He says that though he had never thought again " to 
yelp in jingling stanzas at any warrior's heels, yet for 
love of the bright deeds of him that remedies some part 
of their neglect he will proclaim aloud the lustre of 
Sarsfield's renown." One of his best-known poems is 
his spirited "Advice addressed to a trooper who was 
that day (October 13th, 1686), joining the army," to 
serve under Tyrconnel, a piece intended for the whole 
Irish army as well as for the particular soldier, one 
James Aherne, to whom it was sent. This, like several 
of O'Bruadair's political pieces, contains on the margin 
quaint explanations of the obscure allusions in the piece, 
the explanations being often hardly less obscure than 
the lines themselves. We find the same marginal notes 
in a curious piece supporting Sarsfield's party and 
bewailing the miseries of the common people and the 
cabals of the leaders during and after the siege of 
Limerick. It is called " Ireland's Hurly-burly " {Longar 
Langar Eirenn), and shows, according to the heading, 


" how in this year, 1691, her own children's sins had 
turned Ireland topsy-turvy ; ' a kingdom divided 
against itself is brought to desolation.' " The obscurities 
of his allusions, which made these marginal notes neces- 
sary even in his own time, the difficulties of his verse, 
and his frequent use of antiquated words and inflections 
have rendered his work almost unknown in our own day. 
Yet he is a vigorous, reflective and often humorous 
writer, with a great command of language both ancient 
and modern, and his poems have, as Mr. S. H. O'Grady 
remarks, " a lilt and swing that convey the idea of 
rapid extempore utterances." * He has seemingly 
unlimited resources of versification and he so rarely 
repeats his images that he is always fresh. 

Little is known of the poet's career, but a ceangal or 
binding stanza to " Ireland's Hurly-Burly " tells us that 
he had hoped in his old age to have found a comfortable 
post as steward to some gentleman remaining in the 
old country, but " since the end of it all is that I am 
come down to a pair of old brogues, here's an end to 
my scribbling about the men of Ireland." He appears 
to have lived six or seven years after this date (1691), 
which would place his death somewhere about 1697-8. 

Three Representative Jacobite Poets. — Three 
noteworthy poets represent on different sides what is 
best in Irish Jacobite poetry. These are Egan O'Rahilly, 
John Clarach Mac Donnell and Owen Roe O'SuUivan. 
Though not very widely separated as to date, they 
witnessed successive stages of the fortunes of the House 

* Cat. of MSS. in the British Museum, p. 577, «. 2. Nineteen 
of his pieces are preserved in two MSS. in the Brit. Museum. 
Add, 29, 614, and Egerton, 154. 


of Stuart. O'Rahilly was writing in the period of the 
Battle of the Boyne and the Fall of Limerick ; he knew 
of the flight of James II,, and he heard the rumours 
of his proposed descent upon the west coast in 1708 ; 
but he was dead before the Young Pretender came 
into prominence. Owen Roe wrote when the Stuart 
cause was hopelessly lost ; the landing of Charles 
Edward in Scotland in 1745, and the final defeat at 
CuUoden a year later must have been, if he remembered 
them at all, but vague traditions of his childhood. 
But John Claragh, who was born in the year of the 
Capitulation of Limerick (1691), and died in 1754, 
lived through the whole of the exciting time that 
preceded the arrival of the Young Pretender, he 
witnessed the eagerness of his adherents, and he sym- 
pathized with his hopes, his fears and his perils. To 
this difference of outlook we may partly ascribe the 
contrast in the tone of the poems of these three men. 
O'Rahilly's massive and splendid lamentations are a fit 
dirge for the sorrows of his native land. He writes with 
something of the tremendous solemnity of the Hebrew 
prophets of the exile, and his poem beginning " Woeful 
and bitter to me are the wounds of the land of Fodla 
{i.e., Ireland) " seem to echo the spirit of the writer of 
the Book of Lamentations : " How doth the city sit 
solitary that was full of people." 

In all his work there is a mournfulness, a brooding 
intensity, a vigour and simplicity of expression that 
place it far above that of any of his fellows in 
distinction and in a sense of grave reality. He writes 
elegies, lyrics and satires, tender and full of pathos 
when he speaks of friends, fierce and cruel when he 
lashes the vices and crimes of those who "in an hour 


of national crisis endeavoured to purchase a vulgar 
upstart nobility at the cost of honour and virtue."* 
He is happy only in recalling the opulence and the 
wide hospitalities of the old gentry, who were being 
dispossessed by newcomers hostile to the old inhabitants 
and to the ancient ways. 

The date of Egan O'Rahilly's birth is vinknown, but 
he probably composed his elegy on Diarmuid O'Leary 
of Killeen, one of his finest pieces, in 1696, and he was 
in the fuU tide of his powers at the close of the seventeenth 
century. He hved most of his life in the neighbourhood 
of Killarney, first at Stagmount, ten miles east of the 
town, and later, at Duinneacha, near the great cascade 
under the Tomies Mountain, the roaring of which in 
its impetuous descent he celebrates in a poem written 
on the night of his arrival. From these places he 
wandered about among the houses of the gentry, to 
several of whom he wrote poems or laments. He was 
deeply stirred by the attempts to displace the old 
landowners in favour of interested and selfish adven- 
turers, and his sympathies were especially aroused in 
behalf of the family of Nicholas Brown, the Second 
Viscount Kenmare, who had been attainted for partici- 
pation in the Jacobite war and whose estates it was 
sought to transfer into other hands. To the members 
of this family several of O'Rahilly's poems are addressed. 
His wedding-song on the marriage of Valentine, son 
and heir to Lord Kenmare, in 1720, voices the public 
joy at the reinstatement of their family fortunes. 

O'Rahilly lived and died in great poverty. Though 
he was a man of some learning and evidently of force 

* See Fr. Dinneen's Introduction to his Poems, Irish Texts 
Society, Vol. III., p. xxxvii. 


and elevation of mind, he delighted to wander about the 
country, feigning himself to be a simpleton. A poetical 
letter, written on his death-bed, shows that he was 
reduced at the end of his hfe to the direst misery and 

The structure of O'Rahilly's verse differs entirely 
from that of the older clan-poetry. He is master of 
a grave and composed rhythm, and some part of the 
serious effect he produces is due to his lengthened line 
and the extraordinary regularity of the rise and fall 
of the stressed vowel-sounds. He seldom used rhjmie, 
and though this at first brings a sense of loss to the ear 
accustomed to English verse, the wonderful manage- 
ment of his vowel-sounds more than compensates for 
its lack ; it makes terminal rhyme sound cheap and thin. 
The Irish method of verse structure has, in O'Rahilly's 
hands, something of the effect of stately movement 
and freedom from restraint which is gained in EngUsh 
by the use of blank verse. Though O'Rahilly does 
not possess the variety of metres of some of his con- 
temporaries, no Irish modern poet approaches him in 
majesty and impressiveness. His satires, whether 
personal or political, are generally fierce and often 
coarse and cruel. 

John (Seaghan) Claragh Mac Donnell (1691-1754) 

approaches in his verse more nearly to the Scottish 
type of Jacobite poetry than any of his fellows. His 
familiarity with the Northern songs is proved by his 
happy rendering into Irish Gaehc of " My Laddie can 
fight and my Laddie can sing," in which the Irish and 
Anglo-Scottish verses alternate. Other songs, evidently 
formed on the Scottish model, are the charming 


"SeAt "00 biof im tTiAig'oin ffeirh," and the equally 
delightful " t)itn-fe buAn Af t)uAit)ii\c saC to," 
with its response, sometimes attributed to O'Tuomy, 
" A fio$Ari uAf At fuAif c, 'f A fcOitv-"* The former 
song is written to the air " An CnocA X)Sn," 
known in Scotland as the " White Cockade," a famihar 
air in Munster in the eighteenth century or earlier. 
The White Cockade was originally a white favour worn 
by girls at weddings, and there are old songs celebrating 
it as such ; but in Jacobite times both the air and the 
symbol adopted a poUtical significance and became 
Jacobite tokens. 

Seaghan Claragh was a native of Charleville, Co. 
Cork. He was born in 1691, about the time that 
O'RahOly began to write, and he died in 1754, twenty 
or more years later than O'Rahilly, and thirty years 
before Owen Roe. He was the undisputed head and 
chief of Munster poetry in his day, and he presided at 
the provincial poetic contests which were organised 
with a certain solemnity and which kept up and fed 
the poetic ardour of the local bards. In the days of 
Mac Donnell and his friend and successor, O'Tuomy, 
these annual contests became celebrated. Aspirants 
for admission to the bardic assemblies had to give 
proof of their ability by furnishing extempore poems. 
The members were given notice of the gatherings 
by " Warrants," half-serious and half -humorous, as 
were the meetings themselves. Many of these " War- 
rants " still exist. Poems produced were criticised and 
long discussions were carried on in verse ; but probably 
the chief object of the Assemblies was to form a centre 

* The " ceangal " or final "binding" stanza is in any case 
O'Tuomy' s. 


of social and convivial intercourse heightened by a 
professional literary purpose. Mac Donnell was a man 
of education, for he had been trained for the priesthood, 
and probably took holy orders. He knew Latin and 
Greek well and even attempted to translate Homer 
into Irish verse. He was a good antiquary, and had 
made a valuable collection of manuscripts and papers 
with the intention of writing a history of Ireland. 
His residence abroad may have widened his interests, 
for he is one of the few poets of the time who seems to 
have been aware of the events passing outside his 
immediate neighbourhood. He wrote a fierce poem 
on Philip of Orleans, Regent of France, during the 
minority of Louis XV., and one on the European wars of 
1740-48. Mac Donnell possessed to the full the Irish power 
of satire, and on one occasion the exercise of this faculty 
brought him into serious trouble. About the year 1738, 
he launched a satire of the most cutting and merciless 
kind on the death of a landed gentleman of the name 
of Colonel Dawson, of Atherlow, against whom 
O'Rahilly also composed a bitter elegy. Dawson 
probably fully merited the overwhelming denunciation ; 
nevertheless, it is not astonishing that on account of 
it, the family of the dead man hunted Mac Donnell 
out of the place. Mac Donnell seems to have been 
obliged for a time to take refuge out of the country,* 
but he returned and kept his position as leader of the 
bardic assemblies until his death in 1754. He was much 
respected and beloved by his contemporaries, and a 
quite unusual number of lays and elegies flowed forth 
on his death, testifying to the esteem in which he was 

* O'Curry says for fourteen years, and he thinks that most 
of this time was passed in London and in Ireland. 


held in his own neighbourhood. He unfortunately 
wrote little, but the taste and delicacy of his language, 
which bears the mark of a refined and cultured mind, 
makes each of his lyrics a gem in its way, choice and 
graceful in thought and expression. The chief blemish 
in his verse is that he sprinkles his poems with the 
usual classical allusions which, however it may have 
been in his case, do not necessitate any more extensive 
acquaintance with Greek and Latin authors than could 
be gleaned from any school reading-book. The sun 
is always Phoebus, a singer or minstrel always Orpheus, 
and a fair lady is the spouse of Mars or Jupiter, or 
she is Venus or Helen of Troy. Mac Donnell's fame 
is founded on a mere handful of poems ; either he wrote 
sparingly, or some of his pieces must have been lost. 

Owen Roe O'Sullivan (1748 ? 1784) is a more 
popular and a more voluminous poet than Seaghan 
Claragh. He has none of the self-restraint of his pre- 
decessor, but pours forth his verse in a torrent of language 
the luxuriance of which has probably never been equalled 
and which frequently degenerates into looseness and 
vagueness of expression. He belonged to the same 
district as the O'Rahillys and the O'Scannells, and was 
born at Meentogues, seven miles east of Killarney. 
In his youth, dancing festivities and hurling matches 
were still kept up in the old style, and the school of 
Faha, which prepared students for the seminary at 
Killarney, fostered not only classical and general 
knowledge but also native song and music. A friendly 
rivalry in the composition of poetry sprang up among 
the representatives of the different bardic families of 
the neighbourhood, and Owen early showed his dexterity 


in the -management of rhyme as well as the vigour and 
humour of his mind. But his restless temperament 
and the wildness of his character drove him into a 
wandering Ufe. He varied his pursuit of the profession 
of schoolmaster by excursions as a harvest-man and 
potato-digger, but, in the end, his misconduct obliged 
him to fly the country. He enhsted in the British navy 
and took part in the great sea fight of Rodney against 
the French in 1782. But though he was commended 
by his officers, and offered promotion by Rodney 
himself, to whom he sent a rude ode in English, com- 
plimenting him on his victory, he was eager to get back 
to Ireland. Probably he thought to earn his freedom 
in reward for his panegyric, but as this failed, his 
captain saying that " they would not part with him 
for love or money," he drifted into the land forces, 
from which, by means of scheming, he at last got his 
discharge. He returned to Knocknagree Cross, where 
he opened a school, but soon after, in June, 1784, he 
died of a wound received in a drunken brawl which 
arose out of a quarrel with the servants of a Colonel 
Cronin, of Park, near Killarney, whose mcister he had 

Eoghan Ruadh's songs had an immediate and immense 
popularity. Throughout Munster he was known as 
" Owen of the Sweet Mouth " (Eoghan an bheil bhinn), 
and from the extraordinary richness of his word-weaving 
and the melody of his verse, the title is well deserved. 
His fecundity in metres is remarkable, many of his 
pieces being fitted to old and well-known airs, to which 
they were sung by the peasants aU over the South of 
Ireland. He was emphatically the people's poet, though 
there is in his verse none of that simplicity of style and 


meaning which we usually associate with the songs of 
the folk. But from a literary point of view his very 
fecundity is a weakness ; his poetry is over-loaded 
with adjectives, which, though they occasionally have 
a certain torrential effect when used with a definite 
purpose, are, when flung down pell-mell, as Owen Roe 
uses them, often a mere trick to cover poverty of thought. 
His alliteration, too, a legitimate and beautiful orna- 
ment of verse, when used with restraint and good feeling, 
degenerates into mere childish rhetoric in many of 
his lyrics. A large number of his compound words 
are coined by himself ; and that he delighted in exhi- 
bitions of his cleverness in thus stringing together 
adjectives beginning with the same consonant may be 
judged from examples both in his prose and poetical 
pieces. The very profuseness of his power of expression 
and the quickness of his ear for melodious combinations 
of sounds tends, from his lack of restraint, to become 
degraded into mere word-weaving devoid of meaning 
and dignity. Like most of his contemporaries he wrote 
bitter and cruel satires, yet his enthusiasm and 
vehemence, his pathos and music, give his poems a 
place of importance in the literary output of his day. 
His poems, more than those of any of his fellows, show 
the wonderful fecundity and richness of the Gaelic 

The Poets of the People. 

The group of bards whom we have now to consider 
recalls us again to those local bardic assemblies which 
endeavoured in the eighteenth century to keep alive 
by friendly rivalry the composition of Gaelic poetry 
and the interest in the Irish tongue and the history and 
antiquities of the country. On the death of Seaghan 
Claragh MacDonnell, in 1754, his friend, John O'Tuomy, 
succeeded him as chief of these assemblies, and became 
the acknowledged head of Munster poetry during his 

He was born at Croom in Co. Limerick, in 1706, 
or a couple of years later, and during his residence there 
he made the little town, which stands on the eastern 
bank of the R. Maigue, an intellectual centre for the 
surrounding district. He kept an inn at Croom during 
the earlier years of his married life, afterwards moving 
into Limerick, where he seems to have died in 1775. 
During O'Donnell's lifetime the bardic assemblies had 
been usually held half-yearly either at Charleville or 
Bruree, and in the open air. But under O'Tuomy's 
presidency they met at his tavern in Croom, a village 
which earned for itself the title of Croom " an t-stigha- 
chais " or " the merry," no doubt on account of the 
gatherings of these witty and pleasant companies of 
bardic associates. O'Tuomy was himself commonly 
known as "an ghrinn " or the jovial. A certain mock 
solemnity was attached to these assemblies, the " War- 
rants " issued being couched in the terms of English 
law, and officers called sheriffs being appointed to con- 


duct the proceedings. But though they may have done 
something to preserve an interest in the composition 
and recitation of Irish verse, the results attained are 
not to be taken too seriously. They did not tend to 
the production of poems of a high level, and the mutual 
recriminations in verse into which the output of the 
assemblies Often degenerated are unworthy of any sort 
of immortality. 

Many of O'Tuomy's own poems are, however, ex- 
ceptionally melodious. Such songs as " A Cuif te ha 
li-6i5fe, 611^15 fUAf," or his Aishng "ltn AoriAtv feAt 
^5 |\o'OAi'6eACc " are delightful ; but he was, like 
most of his- contemporaries, unequal in his work. 
He seems to have been a man of some education and 
respected both for his ability and wit and for the solid 
qualities of his character. Probably it was owing to 
his generosity to his fellow-bards that he fell into 
poverty and was forced for a time to accept a position 
as steward on the farm of a gentleman residing in 
Limerick. He seems in any case to have been in 
straitened circumstances at the time of his removal 
to that city. He is buried at Croom within sound of 
the waters of the River Maigue, whose charms are so 
often celebrated in the poems of this group of writers. 

Among the bards who gathered around O'Tuomy 
the best known is Andrew M'Grath, called the " Man- 
gaire Sugach " or Jolly Pedlar, not because he actually 
followed the trade of peddling, but from his roving 
and thriftless hfe. 

Though closely associated with O'Tuomy in the bardic 
assemblies, and often taking advantage of his bounty, 
he was a man of very different character. Reckless, 
hot-tempered and dissolute, he was never long able to 


keep steady to his profession of schoolmaster, and even 
so good a friend as O'Tuomy suffered under the lash 
of his caustic wit. The dates of his birth and death 
are unknown, but he survived O'Tuomy, on whose 
death he, like several other of their companions, wrote 
an elegy. He was, however, an old man before O'Tuomy 
died, and probably did not long survive him. At one 
time, driven to any expedient by want, he thought to 
gain employment by a pretended conversion to Protes- 
tantism, but he was as little welcome in the Church 
to which he offered himself as he had been in his own. 
Denounced by his own priest and rejected by the 
Protestant rector of Croom, he took advantage of the 
occasion to write a humorous poem complaining of 
his outcast position. Wild as he was, and rakish in 
character as are several of his pieces, M'Grath had a 
true gift of song. Several exquisite compositions are 
from his hand. Of these one of the most touching is 
his " Stin te IIIA15," bidding farewell to the River 
which flowed through his native district, to which 
O'Tuomy wrote a reply ; and the hardly less graceful 
love song, " C6 ^ax)A m& te ri^ef An cr^Aos^it." 
A vigorous and forcible poem is his political " tDuAn 
riA f Aoii^fe " or Song of Freedom, beginning, "if 
fAX)A tn6 1 g-curfiAjAn criut te x:6A\mAm," which seems to 
have been composed in the earlier period of the Seven 
Years' War (1756-1763), an appeal in favour of the 
exiled Stuarts and calling for vengeance on their enemies. 
Among his remaining songs are two other Jacobite 
poems, satires, drinking songs and amatory pieces. 
There are also a number of pieces written in the form 
of questions and replies with O'Tuomy. In several 
of their songs, these writers adopted the Irish ornament 


of binding the stanzas together by making the new 
verse begin with the same word as that which ended 
the verse before it. 

Among the minor poets who gathered round Mac 
Donnell and O'Tuomy one of the best was William 
O'Heffernan, called William Dall or " the Bhnd," a 
native of Shronehill, Co. Tipperary. He was born 
sightless, and wandered about the county subsisting 
on bounty. He often contended in the bardic sessions 
of the Maigue. His poems are allegorical visions, 
written with a political and national purpose, elegies 
and love songs. Several of his lyrics are universal 
favourites. Such are his " CAictin ni tlAttACAiti," 
his " UAitt-jut An Ao^t)mf," and his charming song, 
" t)6 ri-eit\inri 1." A familiar example of his allegorical 
poems is " CUo-Oha r\A c^ffAige," sung to the Irish 
air, " Staca an Mhargaidh " or the " Market Stake." 

Tadhg Gaedhealach O'Sullivan, d. 1795?— More 
remarkable than any of these poets is the religious 
writer whose devotional poems were familiar in 
every home in Munster so long as the Irish language 
was the natural vehicle of speech between man and 
man. They had the unusual good fortune to be printed 
in Limerick during O'Sullivan's lifetime, and so widely 
were they used and appreciated that they passed through 
several editions in the early years of the nineteenth 
century. Tadhg is believed to have died in 1795, and 
an edition printed in Cork in 1837 is marked " Eleventh 
Edition." It was commonly known as " The Pious 
Miscellany," * and in an edition brought out in 1819 

• O'Daly used the Edition printed at Clonmel in 1816 in 
drawing up his own. 



by Patrick Denn an appendix was added containing 
poems by the editor, also of a simple and devotional 

The devotional spirit of the people found expression 
in the passion of reUgious sentiment that breathes 
through O'SuUivan's verses. Father Dinneen says of 
them : " The poetry of Tadhg Gaedhealach reflects in the 
clearest manner the aspirations after virtue and holiness 
so remarkable in the lives of the majority of his con- 
temporaries. ... He spoke not merely for himself, 
he was the unconscious mouthpiece of the greater part 
of the populace. They found in his songs remedies 
to apply to their spiritual wounds, consolation in their 
trouble, and peace amid worldly strife. They found 
what oft they thought, but ne'er so well expressed." 

Tadhg was born early in the eighteenth century and 
most of his life was spent in the neighbourhood of 
Youghal and Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, or in the east 
of the same county in the district known as the Powers' 
Country. He was naturally of a gay disposition, witty, 
and given to practical jokes, and possibly inclined to 
dissipation. But a time came when he withdrew from 
these early distractions and devoted himself to a life 
of ascetic piety. He abandoned the bardic assemblies 
and attached himself to a sort of confraternity at 
Dungarvan, dying at a good age, " worn-out," 
Fr. Dinneen tells us, " with fasting and penance, and 
ever-during prayers." His poems were everywhere 
known in his own country before his death, and their 
simplicity and fervour appealed powerfully to the hearts 
of the peasantry. They formed almost the entire 
printed literature of the Irish-speaking portion of the 
population of Munster for many years after his decease. 


Their subjects are sin and penitence, verses in praise 
of piety and chastity, and on the terrors of the last day. 
There are tender hymns and carols to the Blessed 
Virgin Mary and to the Redeemer. Besides these 
poems on strictly religious subjects, there are secular 
songs to friends, political ballads, love songs, and a 
farewell to Ireland ; the occasion which called forth 
the latter is unknown. 'UTiy Tadhg gained the title of 
Gaedhealach is also uncertain ; it is supposed to have 
been bestowed on him either from his rustic appearance, 
or on account of his Irish speech. 

Other parts of the country besides the Southern 
districts of Munster produced about the same period 
groups of bards of more or less renown. In Mayo and 
Clare we have, besides MacNamara and Merriman, 
of whom we have already spoken, and who survived 
into the early years of the nineteenth century, an earlier 
group, which included Andrew MacCurtin and his 
cousin Hugh, Cormac Common, usually called Cormac 
Dall on account of his blindness, Michael Comyn, 
and a number of smaller writers. Andrew MacCurtin 
(d. 1749), who was ollave to the O'Briens of Thomond 
and hereditary bard of Clare, lived just when the 
transition from the old system of metric to the new 
was taking place, and he was much disturbed by the 
change. He had been trained in the severe methods 
of the regular bards, and in a poem addressed to Sorley 
MacDonnell of Kilkee he complains bitterly of the. 
obUgation to compose in metres " void of all rule or 
concord," instead of in the well-turned and correct 
style of older days. He seems to have been a proud and 
reclusive spirit, endeavouring to keep up, when it was 
no longer possible to do so, the old haughty prerogatives 


of the family oUaves.* He tells us that because he had 
not received invitations with due ceremony from Sorley 
MacDonnell inviting him to partake of the hospitalities 
of his house, he had withdrawn into the bleak hills 
of Ibrican, often wanting food, raiment and money, 
and never condescending to go down amongst the 
gentlemen and musicians of Kilkee where he could have 
been refreshed with food and music, games and pleasures. 
In his old age he begins to regret what he had missed, 
and his poem, which he calls " an insipid lazy lay, void 
of elegance, ill- woven and weak," because it was com- 
posed in the fashionable new style of writing verse, 
was presented in the hope of recovering the friendship 
of his patron. This it seems to have succeeded in doing, 
and in his latter days both the MacDonnells and O^Briens 
helped him in his difficulties. Andrew lived chiefly 
on his family property at Maghglas in Ibrican, where 
he was born. After the death of his parents, he sold 
part of the property in order to continue the antiquarian 
studies in which he was interested, and to support 
himself he was forced to become a teacher. Among his 
poems are two laments on the death of Sir Donagh 
mac Conor O'Brien of Dromoland, Co. Clare (d. 1717), 
" the great Sir Donat," as he is called in his own country, 
and a semi-humorous address, written in 1733, to 
" Doun of the Sand Hills," a fairy potentate supposed 
to inhabit the sand hills on the Clare coast, begging 
him to take him under his protection now that he was 
neglected by the new gentry of his native district. 

His cousin, Hugh " Boy " or Buidhe mac Curtin, 
who succeeded him as oUave of Thomond, was a native 
of Kilmacreehy in the barony of Corcomroe, where he 

* Chap. XV., p. 189. 


lived and died. He went abroad for his education, 
and through the efforts of Isabella O'Brien, wife of 
Sorley Mac Donnell of Kilkee, he was introduced to 
the Dauphin and was retained by him for seven years 
as tutor during his sojourn in France. His interest 
in the Irish language and archaeology had been fostered 
by his association with his cousin, and in 1717 a work 
vindicating the Antiquities of Ireland was published by 
him in Dublin. His Irish grammar was published in 
Lou vain in 1728, and his Irish dictionary and grammar 
in Paris in 1732. His later works were left unpublished 
through lack of patronage in his own country. On his 
return home he opened a small school in his native 
parish. He died in 1755, and is buried at Kilmacreehy. 

Among the minor poets of the same district are John 
Hore (d. 1780 ?), a blacksmith, who wrote a number 
of poems to the Mac Donnell family of Kilkee ; John 
Lloyd (d. 1757-8), a vagrant bard of -Upper TuUa, who 
wrote some mellifluent verse ; John Hartney (d. 1755), 
who lived and died at Kilkee ; and Thomas Meehan 
(d. after 1798), a native of Ennis, where he taught a 
literary school and was much esteemed by his neigh- 
bours. More important than any of these is Michael 
CoMYN, b. at Kilcorcoran, Co. Clare, about 1688, whose 
Lay of Oisln in Tir na n-Og, or the Land of Youth, is 
well-known and studied as a classic. It is probably 
founded on some earlier Ossianic legend known to the 
writer, and is full of brilliant description. He is known 
also as the author of two prose tales, the " Adventures 
of Turlough, s. of Starn," and the " Adventures of 
Turlough's Three Sons," and of some minor poems. 

At a slightly earlier period Meath and Louth produced 
an important group of poets. Of these, one, Turlough 


O'Carolan, has gained a world-wide fame, and we 
must speak of him at greater length. 

Turlough Carolan or O'Carolan (1670-1738).— 
This famous man, who outlived the contemporaries 
of his youth, and has been rather erroneously called 
" the last of the Irish bards," was the son of James 
(or John) O'Carolan, and was born at Newtown, Co. 
Meath. He came of people of good position, but soon 
after his birth, his father, who owned property in the 
county, was, with many of his fellow-countrymen, 
stripped of his possessions, and he was obliged to retire 
to the West, where he settled, with the help of his good 
friend, Lady St. George, at Carrick-on-Shannon, in Co. 
Leitrim. Here he made the acquaintance of the family 
of M'Dermott Roe, of the County Roscommon, whose 
friendship and admiration for the bard formed one of 
the strongest ties of his life. At their house he often 
lived, and it was to their home that he returned to die 
when he felt himself overcome by sickness. He lies 
buried in their ancient burial-place at Kilronan Church. 
At the time of his father's retreat to Carrick, Turlough 
was a bright and engaging boy, and Mrs. M'Dermott 
frequently had him at her house and caused him to 
be instructed with her own children. He learned to 
read in his native tongue, then universally taught ; 
but he also studied English, though not with a very 
satisfactory result, as his few attempts at writing English 
verse show. But Carolan's lessons were suddenly cut 
short. He was growing to manhood when he was seized 
with small-pox, and though he escaped with his life, 
it was with the total loss of his sight. In this afflicted 
condition he was seized with a desire to learn the harp. 


Mrs. M'Dermott not only had him instructed in the 
instrument, but provided him with a horse and a servant 
to attend him. It was in this way that Carolan drifted 
into what was known as the " idle trade," i.e., that of 
wandering bard. He was never, however, regarded 
as a mere musician. His good birth and breeding, his 
amiable disposition, and his great natural genius caused 
his visits to be looked upon as a favour, and his welcome 
never failed wherever he chanced to wend his steps. 
There was often a contest between his friends as to who 
should next have the honour of entertaining him. 

Wherever he went he poured forth songs in praise of 
members of these hospitable houses. The M'Dermotts, 
the family of his hfe-long friend, Denis O'Conor of 
Belanagere, and many others, shared the honour of 
being celebrated in his verse. His first effort in poetry 
was undertaken at the suggestion of his friend, Mr. 
Reynolds, of Letterfian, who proposed to him as a 
subject an imaginary battle between the " Good People," 
or the fairies, who were supposed to inhabit two hills 
in the neighbourhood and to be adverse to each other. 
" Perhaps, Carolan," said Mr. Reynolds to him, jocosely, 
" you might make a better hand of your tongue than 
of your fingers. " It is difficult to tell which was Carolan's 
best " hand " henceforth ; beautiful airs and verses 
full of feeUng and spirit flowed from him with apparently 
equal facility. His music was in the highest degree 
popular so long as Irish was spoken ; the airs suit well 
only Irish metres. About a hundred out of the two 
hundred airs he is said to have composed can be 
accounted for ; to most of them he wrote accompanying 
songs. He generally named his tunes and songs after 
the persons for whom they were composed. 


Among his early songs we may name the following : — 
" The Fairy Queens," beginning : " ltnt\eAf ati md\^ 
tAitiic eix)it\ r\A Kigte." This was Cardan's first 
composition, and gives a romantic picture of Fairy Strife. 
" Planxty Reynolds,"* written to his friend, Mr. 
Reynolds, of Letterfian. " Grace Nugent," beginning : 
"If miAtin teAtti cfvACcAt) ai^a et,Ait tiA pinne," written 
for the first cousin of Mr. Reynolds. " Bridget Cruise," 
beginning : " A fA6cAi|\ ^'f a Cuif te, n& ciA6i5-fi Coitiee 
me-fi." This sweet song was one of several addressed 
to his early love who, though she shared his attach- 
ment, was never united to him. It is a very beautiful 
lyric, full of passion and tenderness. Another air and 
song composed to the same girl, begins : A tJiiiSra 
Deuf AC If -ouic An t)6i|\f e. It is said to have been sung 
by him in a sort of dream or rapture after sitting for 
hours listlessly in the sun upon a fairy rath to which he 
was wont to retire for solitude. The memory of this 
early love affair clung to him even to middle-age, and 
O'Conor relates that he recognised his lost lady by the 
touch of her fingers in helping her to step into the 
ferry-boat going with pilgrims to Loch Derg in Co. 
Donegal. Carolan married Mary Maguire, a young lady 
of good family in Co. Fermanagh. Mr. Walker tells us 
that she " proved a proud and extravagant dame." He 
built for her a house on a small farm near Mohill in Co. 
Leitrim. He wrote several songs to her, of which one 
of the best-known begins : 

" ITlo tfiun 'f mo ti[i.i.t) gAti m6 'f tno si^^t) 
A ti-5teAnnciiTi Atuinn f tfeiOe." 

* A Planxty is a harp-tune of sportive and animated character ; 
it usually moves in triplets with a f measure like the Irish jig. 


And his monody on her death is full of pathos and 
unaffected grief. 

Among his numerous songs to ladies are his spirited 
" Wild Mabel Kelly," one of his finest pieces ; the 
" Ode to O'More's Fair Daughter," called " The Hawk 
of Ballyshannon ; " Bridget O'Malley, and Peggy 
Corcoran. Among his convivial songs, generally written 
in recognition of hospitaHties extended to him, are 
" Planxty Kelly," written for Mr. Kelly of Cargin, Co. 
Roscommon; "Planxty Stafford," called " Carolan's 
Receipt for Drinking," of which, however, only the first 
stanza is by him, the second having been added by his 
friend, Mac Cabe ; " Planxty Maguire," written at 
Tempo in Ulster ; and " The Cup of O'Hara," composed 
in recognition of the hospitahty of a gentleman of the 
O'Hara family in Co. Sligo. Though Carolan wrote 
many convivial songs and enjoyed to the full the 
pleasures of a friendly feast, the stories of his reckless 
drinking appear to be quite untrue. He was, says his 
friend, Charles O'Conor, " moral and religious." In 
Mayo he wrote a great number of verses for the families 
of Lord Bourke, Lord Dillon, the Palmers, Costellos, 
and O'Donnells. In Roscommon, to Mrs. French, 
Nelly Plunket, the O'Conors and M'Dermotts ; in Sligo, 
to the Croftons, Colonel Irwin and Loftus Jones. A 
well-known and favourite poem is his Lament over the 
grave of his fellow-bard, Mac Cabe, written under a 
false impression of his death, conveyed to him in joke 
by the bard himself. He wandered much, chiefly in 
Connacht. In the year 1737 he fell ill while staying 
at Tempo, and hastily returned to the house of his old 
friend, Mrs. M'Dermott, of Alderford, bidding farewell 
to his friends on the journey. On his arrival he called 


for his harp and sang to it his " Farewell to Music," 
a final effort. He died on March 26th, 1738. 

Carolan was the centre of a group of musicians and 
song-writers, of whom Dall mac Cuairt, Cahir mac 
Cabe, Patrick mac Alindon and Peter O'Durnan 
all came from the Meath and Louth district. They 
poured forth songs on all occasions, a large number 
being amatory ditties, drinking-songs, and -satirical 
and personal pieces. None of them were men of educa- 
tion, and their verse is not of high merit, though occa- 
sionally a lament or a love-song of more than ordinary 
beauty is to be found among their voluminous 

A poet of quite a different stamp, who lived a 
little later, is John O'Neachtan, a Meath writer, 
who flourished about the beginning of the eighteenth 
century. He was an educated man, and his poems rank 
high for their pure and correct style and the simplicity of 
their language. Only a small portion of them have as yet 
been published,* but among these is his delicate elegy 
on the death of Mary d'Este, widow of James H. (d. 
1718), and two charming laments on the death of his 
own wife, beginning A t&A-^Ai^ 'f6 m'^Ag-fA and 
Criug m6 feAt\c mo Ctfeiti 'f mo gfi.*. There is also 
a sweet and simple lay calling on a young maiden 
to come out and enjoy the beauties of nature, which 
are recounted at length and with evident affection. 
The best-known of his poems is the famous " Maggie 
Laidir," describing with great spirit a convivial feast 
at which the chairman is supposed to recite this poem. 
In it Ireland is toasted under the poetic title of " Maggie 
the Strong," and there follow toasts to the chief famiUes 

* Edited by Miss A. O'Farrelly for the Gaelic League, 


of the four provinces, to the bishop and priests of his 
native district, and to the tribes of Ireland at large. 
After heartily wishing destruction to the enemies of 
his country and success to its friends he calls for a 
dance, and ends by enumerating the chief families 
of Erin, from all of whom he claims descent. This 
rollicking lay is one of the best of the many feasting 
songs composed about this time. It is a better piece 
even than " O'Rourke's Frolic," written in the same 
period by Hugh mac Gowran, of Leitrim, and translated 
into English verse by Dean Swift. A very amusing 
poem is O'Neachtan's " Battle of Bridget's Gap and 
Cross," a humorous account of a battle supposed to 
have been fought near Tallaght, in 1705, between the 
potatoes and the beans and peas, that is, between the 
farmers and the gardeners who supplied Dublin. The 
poet records the triumph of the potato over its inhospi- 
table foe, the pulse. Some of his poems are written in 
imitation of Fenian tales, others are addressed to 
imprisoned priests, and there are penitential poems, 
satirical lines and occasional verses. His prose works 
include a treatise on geography, giving some curious 
particulars regarding Ireland and other countries, some 
fragments of Annals from 1167 to his own date, and 
prose tales, of which the best known are an extravaganza 
called the " Strong-armed Wrestler," and an allegorical 
tale ridiculing persons learning English, entitled the 
" History of Edmond O'Clery.* He translated several 
Latin verses into Irish. One of his poems was penned 
shortly after the Battle of the Boyne, when he was 
deprived of all his property by the marauding soldiers, 
except one small book in Irish which they could not read. 

* Published in the GaeUc Journal, Vol. II. 


Another O'Neachtan, Tadhg, who was ahve in 1750, 
also wrote poems, twenty-five of which are mentioned 
by O'Reilly, besides some fragmentary prose works. 
He is, however, better remembered as the compiler, 
between the years 1734-39, of a voluminous Irish- 
English Dictionary, which has never been published. 
He lived chiefly in Dublin. 

Characteristics of the Later Poetry. — It would 
not seem that the genius of Irish poetry lent itself 
to the ballad form, which was handled by the low- 
land Scotch with such weird force and solemnity ; 
nor have we among the compositions of this period 
any of those long poems descriptive of natural scenery 
in which the Highland bards of the Jacobite period 
revelled. ' Outside the aislingi or Visions, expressive 
of the troubles and expectations of the country, of 
which we have already spoken, the themes of the Irish 
song-writers were local, love-songs, drinking-songs, 
satires and dirges being the staple of their craft. 
There are numberless poems written by one bard to 
another among the private circle of personal friends 
and companions. In general, the limitations of their 
subjects, as of their allusions and illustrations, is pain- 
fully clear, and there is an oppressive mass of verse 
thrown off without care or finish on the trivial suggestions 
of the moment. So httle originality of thought and 
structure is shown that it is often difficult to distinguish 
the output of one bard from that of another. The 
vagrant and often disreputable lives led by many of 
these men, such as Magrath and MacNamara and Owen 
Roe O'Sulhvan, and, for the first part of his Ufe, Tadhg 
Gaedhealach O'Sulhvan, could not fail to affect their 
poetical gifts and to narrow the circle of their ideas. 


There is nothing universal in their poetry. It is the 
product of a special epoch and of the special circum- 
stances that gave it birth, and it cannot with advantage 
be judged by outside standards. But its popularity 
with the people among whom it had its origin and the 
manner in which it was cherished and copied and sung 
so long as the native tongue was retained in familiar 
use, show that it was the true expression of their 
sentiments and feeling. There is no doubt that this 
poetry tended to foster and keep alive a spirit of revolt 
and disaffection which might otherwise have died down. 
" These ' heart home lays ' of their venerated bards," 
as Hardiman says, " the people treasured up in their 
memories, and, as it was treason to sing them openly, 
they were chanted at private meetings or by the cottage 
firesides throughout the land, with feelings little short 
of religious enthusiasm." 

It is from this period, that is, the period of the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries, that the fixed melan- 
choly of Irish poetry may be said to date. It is not 
a native note of the older Irish literature ; it began to 
make itself heard in the output of the bards during 
the despair and desolation of Elizabethan times, and 
it grew to be the definite mood and temper of the 
democratic and Jacobian poetry. It is, therefore, 
as regards the great bulk of the poems of any particular 
period, a modern rather than an ancient note. Yet at 
all times there was to be heard in the popular songs 
of the peasantry, as well as in their airs, the accent of 
a tender and passionate pathos, whether in the expres- 
sion of the regrets and desires of love, or of the aspirations 
of religion, or in the poems inspired by affection for 
country or friend. 


The true power of the Irish bards lay in the delicate 
manipulation of pure song and lyric. There is a wealth 
of tender and passionate songs of love and religion, 
of which the authorship can only occasionally be traced, 
but which is the common property of every Irish- 
speaking district. Most of them are wedded to airs, 
some of which may be older than the words to which 
they are sung, while others were composed at the same 
time as the song itself. Carolan frequently composed 
air and words together, but we find, both in Ireland 
and'Scotland, more than one version of a song set to 
a familiar air, the air being sometimes slightly modified 
to suit the variations in the words. Similarly, it is 
said that Burns seldom set himself to write a lyric 
without humming to himself, or getting someone to 
play over to him,''some favourite air which suggested 
the words. We thus have many songs written to the 
same air and many versions of the same song. There 
are different versions in Munster and Connacht of 
several songs well-known in both provinces. The 
community of airs between Ireland and Scotland is 
also interesting. No doubt the soldiers of the Jacobite 
period carried the old airs with them as they passed 
backward and forward, adding new words appropriate 
to their own circumstances. Wandering minstrels, also, 
carried the songs of their own district with them and 
sung them wherever they stopped for hospitality. 
Several famous harpers and minstrels are known to 
have passed over to Western Scotland and to have 
introduced there Irish compositions. One of these, 
O'Kane, is mentioned by Dr. Johnston in his " Journal of 
a Tour through the Hebrides," while at the beginning of 
the eighteenth century a brother of Thomas O'Connellan, 


a celebrated Irish composer, went over to Scotland, 
taking with him several of his more famous brother's 
airs. O'Connellan is said to have been a harper of great 
beauty and power, and he composed an immense 
number of tunes. It is to this circumstance that 
Hardiman ascribes the introduction into Scotland of 
the airs known in Ireland as " Planxty Davis " and the 
Prelude to the " Breach of Aughrim," known respec- 
tively in Scotland as " The Battle of Killicranky " and 
" Farewell to Lochaber." Several of the most beautiful 
old airs are common to both nations and have Irish and 
Scottish words set to them. The most familiar, perhaps, 
is Robin Adair, which is the sweet Irish song, " Eileen 
Aroon," while " Gramachree " or " Molly Astore," and 
" Cean Dubh Deelish " have sometimes been claimed, 
in the former case by Burns and in the latter by Corri 
(who pubhshed it under the name " Oran-Gaoil " in 
his collection), as Scotch. Another song usually sup- 
posed to be exclusively Scotch is that called " Kelvin 
Grove," which is to this day sung in Munster to the 
old Irish words of the " Sean Bhean Bhocht." Of the 
" White Cockade " or " Cnota Ban," we have already 
spoken. Another song about the origin of which there 
seems to be some doubt is that known as " Maggie 
Lauder," which is usually but doubtfully ascribed to 
a gentleman of Renfrewshire named Semple, who lived 
at the close of the seventeenth century and who claimed 
to have composed it and other well-known songs, whose 
authorship is equally open to question. The notorious 
woman to whom it was addressed lived near Dunbar 
at the time that Cromwell's army lay in the neigh- 
bourhood. But in Ireland, Maggie Laidir, " The 
Strong," represents Ireland. We have spoken of the 


spirited convivial song of this name written by John 

The dehcacy and tenderness of many of the songs of 
affection could not be surpassed. They are full of expres- 
sions showing that peculiar brilliancy of fancy which 
has always been a distinctive quality of the imaginative 
work of the Gael. What could be more beautiful 
than the description of the loved one as a " Star of 
Knowledge," going before and following after the one 
who loves, opening on every side of him a fresh vision 
of life and of its glory and beauty, so that it seemed 
only to be known for the first time or to be known in 
double measure through knowledge of the one woman 
who was loved. It is an expression that we find repeated 
again and again in the later love-poems. Here is one 
example of it, found by Dr. Hyde in a poem in Con- 
nacht, beginning " Ringleted Youth of my Love ;" it is 
from beginning to end an exquisite song : 

I thought ! O my love ! yoti were so — 

As the moon is, or sun on a fountain, 
And I thought after that you were snow, 

The cold snow on top of the mountain ; 
And I thought after that, you were more 

Like God's lamp shining to find me, 
Or the bright star of knowledge before. 

And the star of knowledge behind me.* 

It is naturally among these well-known songs of love 
which were repeated all over the country that we find 

• xV'f fAoit me, A fc6i)iiti 
50 mbu-6 jeAtAc Ajuf jjiiAii in, 
A'f f-Aoit me 'nriA 'DIA15 fin 

J^o mbwo f neAccA A|1 An rftiAt) c«, 

A't f Aoit me 'nn a '61A15 fin 

50 mbuT) tocf Ann o "diA t« 
no 5«f At) CD An iieutc-eoLAip 
A5 •out fiomAm A'f mo ■61A15 iu. 


the greatest number of variants. Occasionally they 
are different both in subject and metre, as in the version 
given by Dr. Hyde in the Love Songs of Connacht of 
the " Paisteen Finn," which is a totally different song 
from that which goes usually under that name and 
which has been printed in Hardiman's collection and 
elsewhere. Nor does Dr. Hyde's version contain the 
curfa or chorus usually sung at the end of each verse.* 

There are many different versions also of the sweet 
and plaintive " "OiiAigne^n "Oonn," or " Dark Black 
Thorn," which differs not only in Munster and Con- 
nacht but in different parts of the latter province, 
sometimes only the first verse being similar ; or again, 
of An C«it pionti, or the " Coolun," of which quite 
different versions are given in Hardiman, in Mangan's 
" Poets and Poetry of Munster," and in Dr. Hyde's 
" Love Songs of Connacht." The words of Hardiman's 
version are attributed to Maurice O'Dugan, of Co. 
T5n:one, about 1641 ; but probably words of some 
sort were always sung to the beautiful and mournful 
air of that name, which must be of great antiquity. 
The word Coolun, " Ciil Fhionn," meaning " Fair Poll " 
or " Tresses," is in these poems applied to a maiden with 
fair locks or flowing hair, but it seems originally to 
have been used for youths, who, in spite of laws and 
edicts, persisted in wearing the hair long in Ireland. 
Usually the songs that bear the same name are com- 
posed to the same airs, but this is not by any means 

* These choruses, sung by the whole company, sometimes 
had no connection with the song. An example is the " curfa " 
to the " Humours of Joyce's country." The same chorus was 
often used for several songs, and more than one chorus is sung 
to the " Paisteen Finn." 



uniformly the case. For instance, Raftery's version of 
Con-OAfe ltlui§-eo, " County Mayo," is in a totally different 
metre to the popular song of that name. Frequently 
the authors and the date of these songs are unknown, but 
to a few of them at least a traditional origin is assigned. 
The original form of eiOUn a i\uin, or " Eileen Aroon," 
is said to have been composed under the following 
circumstances. A brother of Donagh Mor O'Daly named 
Carroll, a man of position and an accomplished gentle- 
man, paid his addresses to Eileen, daughter of Kavanagh. 
During his absence from home, she was persuaded by 
her relations to abandon him and to marry a rival. 
On the eve of the wedding, O'Daly returned and, dis- 
guised as a harper, he entered the wedding-gathering. 
Here he sang this appeal with such pathos that Eileen 
followed him that night. The last stanza is one of 
welcome. There is a more modern production by a 
Munster bard of the seventeenth century set to the 
same air.* 

At least three well-known sets of words are attached 
to the tender old air, Uileacain Dubh O ! or, "Oh the 
heavy lamentation," and of each the traditional origin 

* Handel is said to have declared that he would rather have 
been the author of the air " Eileen Aroon,'' than of the most 
splendid of his own compositions. It is now best known as 
" Robin Adair " and is commonly supposed to be Scotch. It 
is, however, a very ancient Irish air. Hardiman states that 
Robin Adair was an Irishman living at HoUypark, Co. 
Wicklow, and a member of the Irish ParUament ; cf. his note 
in Vol. I., p. 328. 

A rHi-n, anglicised " aroon,'' means " Secret One," and is, 
like a stdir " asthore," meaning "My Treasure," Cuisle mo 
chroidhe, or " Pulse of My Heart," and many other words 
bearing a similar endearing signifipation, used as an expression 
of affection. 


is known. The oldest, dating from the beginning of 
the seventeenth century, begins : 

"Oa -o-ciocvA-rA tiom-f A 50 citncAe tiAt|ioim 
A uiteACAtn ■ouib, O I 
" If thou wilt come with me to the County of Leitrim," 

and is said to be an invitation addressed by one of the 
unfortunate landholders driven out of Ulster during 
the plantation of James I., to his lady, praying her to 
follow him into Connacht, in this version to Leitrim, 
in another to Mayo. It contains the exquisite lines : 

ConAi|ic me A5 ccacc cfljArti 1 c^e tA|i Ati c-^teitie, 

triAll lieitciOTI C^TO ATI j-ceo'o. 

I saw her coming towards me o'er the face of the mountain, 
Like a star glimmering through the mist. 

The second form of the poem beginning : 

If pAitifins Y pAitceAc AH aic -00 te\i A neijtinTi 

UiteACAti -out) O ! 

Wide-hearted and welcoming to all is this land of Erin 

Uileacan Dubh O ! 

is said by Walsh to have been written by an Irish student 
in one of the colleges of France to the same air. It is 
not a love-song, but an ardent and joyous description 
of the richness and beauty of Ireland. This must in 
all probabihty be of about the same date, as it is the 
period when most of the more promising youths were 
sent abroad for their education. It is over this poem 
that Donnchad Ruadh MacNamara worked, when about 
the year 1730 he produced his splendid version set to 
the same air — 

tJei^i beAnnAfic 6'm ct<oi-6e 50 rin riA 1i-6itieAnn 

DAn cnoic eijieAriTi 615. 
Take a blessing from my heart to the land of Erin, 
The Fair Hills of Holy Ireland 1 


probably written while he was abroad. This version 
has been made familiar by Mangan's and Dr. Sigerson's 
fine renderings in English, while the second version 
has been well translated by vSir Samuel Ferguson. 
Though Donnchad did not create the poem he added 
to his original some noble lines. Especially beautiful 
are those with which he closes his last verse : 

CAicneAtri tiA 5|ieine 0|i^ia, AOfOA Aif 65, 

A|i t)Ancnoic eijieAnn 615 ! 
The glory of the sun shine on them all, young and old. 

On the Fair Hills of Holy Ireland. 

Religious PoeiMs.—Abnostmore beautiful, on account 
of their extreme simpUcity, are some of the short religious 
songs floating among the people. Dr. Hyde has collected 
a number of these in the Province of Connacht, and 
it were to be wished that the same could be done for 
the other provinces, although some of those included 
by Dr. Hyde are of Munster origin or are common to 
both. Many are charms, similar to those found on the 
Western coasts of Scotland, and they probably come 
down from equally remote ages. Others are long poems, 
generally in the form of arguments or debates between 
death and the writer or some imaginary human being, 
on the shortness of life and the transitoriness of earthly 
happiness. The " Dialogue between the Body and 
the Soul,"* a discussion of this sort which was widely 
spread on the Continent in the Middle Ages, was known 
in Ireland, the Irish version being apparently a para- 
phrase of the Latin. This mediaeval tract, which had 
its counterpart in art in the pictures and plays of the 

* It is found in the opera minora of Robert Grosseteste. 
There are Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, French, Swedish, 
German and Spanish versions of it. 


" Dance of Death " or " Dance Macabre," no doubt 
gave rise to the popular Irish poems on the subject. 
A great number of these mournful religious dissertations 
were composed in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, called by such names as " Death and the 
Sinner," or " Death and the Man," " The Final End of 
Man," etc. Some of these pieces are humorous and 
full of a shrewd worldly wisdom, as when Death argues 
with the Sinner that it is dangerous and sinful to drink 
in a tavern, and the Sinner replies that it is hard that 
this should be brought up against him, " considering 
the excellence of his heart in paying for his drink, 
beyond the rest of them." 

Other poems of the same sort contain confessions of 
faith, or warnings of the danger of unrepentance. 
They are, as a rule, lugubrious and mediseval in tone, 
but even some of the dreariest contain occasional 
passages that show the peculiar fine quality of vision 
which is distinctively Irish. We give an example in Dr. 
Hyde's rendering, which keeps close to the sense of the 
original. In a fragmentary poem taken down from the 
mouth of a Galway man named Martin Rua O'Gillarna, 
the silence and unexpectedness of the coming of the 
Day of Judgment is described as being like the pushing 
up, noiselessly but irresistibly, of a blade of grass through 
the ground. 

As a light comes over the rising moon, 
As a heat comes over the settled sun, 
As the grass steals up through the fields of the world, 
The day of the judgment of God shall come.* 
* In the original : 

n\Ap ti5 fotxif Afi An Ti-seAtAij, 
mA\y tigeAf ceAf A|i An ns^iein 
triAfi ctjeAr An peAjt c^iix) An CAtAm 
CiucpAfo tA bt(eiceAmAif ■oe. 


It would be singular anywhere but in Ireland to find 
on the lips of a rude uneducated lad, so delicate a poem 
as A rhuife x\a ngf/if, " Mary of the Graces." 
No translation could transfer into another language 
the fine chasteness and melody of the original. It 
can best be compared to some of the Christmas cradle- 
songs existing among the peasants or to the extreme 
simplicity of the runes and prayers of the Western 

A ttlui|ie TiA tiJIiAf 

A mki&Mfi tflic "Oe 
50 5-cui|ii"6 cu 

.A|i mo teAf me. 

50 fAbAlAi'6 cu me 

Ai^ 5AC uite otc 
50 fAtiAtATO cu me 

l-Di^ AnAm A'f cofip. 

50 fAtiAtAi-6 ZM me 

A^ mui^ A'f A^ ci'fi 
50 f AbAtAi-o cu me 

A^ teic riA bpiATi. 

gA^iTJA ttA n-AmjeAt 

Of mo cionn 
"OiA iiomAm 

.Agtif "OtA tiom.* 

In a similar metre and expressive of the same rare 
refinement and sincerity of feeling is the melodious and 
touching little song, got from an old woman of near a 
hundred years of age living in a hut in the midst of a 
bog in County Roscommon, which Dr. Hyde gives in 
his love-songs, and which, though so recently rescued, 

'^* The guard of the angels above my head, God before me and 
God with me. 


may be said already to have become a classic. It 
begins : 

tno bj^Otl A1f( ATI fipAlllflje 

1r e CA m6\\ 
If e 5AliAiV i-oiji m& 
'S mo mile fcoji. 

■Q' FAgA-o 'fAti mbAite m6 

■OeuTiAm b^ioin 
5An Aon cf uit cAji f Aite tiom 

Cofoce tiA 50 Tjeo. 

" My grief on the sea 

How the waves of it roll I 
For they heave between me 

And the love of my soul I 

" Abandoned, forsaken, 

To grief and to care, 
Will the sea ever waken 

Relief from despair ? " 

In most of these songs, even those composed in the 
most recent periods, there is a fine art displayed in the 
management of the vowel-sounds ; a whole stanza or 
even the larger portions of an entire poem being often 
composed on one or two vowel sounds, interwoven 
and repeated with extraordinary care and complexity. 
Many poems, otherwise valueless, have a curious interest 
from' the ingenuity with which they are built up on 
certain open or closed vowels. 

Thus the poems of Anthony Raftery, the blind poet 
of Killeadan, Co. Mayo (about 1784-1835) which do not, 
as a rule, attain any great poetic dignity of thought 
or expression, are yet remarkable for their wonderful 
facility of verse structure. Raftery led a wandering 
life in the neighbourhood of Gort, Co. Galway, and his 
verses are still alive among the people. They had 


more than a local celebrity, for Raftery was something 
of a political and social force in his day, and his verses 
were often directed to practical purposes during the 
risings of the Whiteboys and in the Tithe War of 1830. 
He loses no opportunity of exalting O'Connell and of 
decrying Orangemen, Protestants and EngUshmen. 
Besides his political pieces and a long poem on the 
history of Ireland, he wrote some good songs to women, 
and a pathetic piece upon the loss of a boat-load of 
people on Loch Corrib in 1828, bound for the fair of 
Gal way. There is also a fine lament for Thomas O'Daly 
which carries out with wonderful skill and with a most 
melodious effect the vowel-rhyming system, the stress 
of the voice falling repeatedly and at regular intervals 
upon the same vowel-sound. Raftery, like many of his 
fellows, is anxious to make a display of classical or 
historical knowledge in his verse, but it is not by these 
efforts that he and the other peasant-poets of Ireland 
will be judged, but by those simple lays, often thrown 
off in the pressure of a moment's necessity, which 
express in the simplest language the deepest and most 
pathetic feelings of the soul. None of Raftery's learned 
poems can approach to the pathos of the three stanzas 
composed, apparently without forethought, in response 
to a man who heard him playing the fiddle and asked 
him who he was. 

tnife UAipcejii AH pite, 

t&n ■oocAif Aguf 5ttA-6, 
te f uitib 5A11 f ot«r 

te outiAf 5An c^tAxi. 

"Out f)A|1 Afl tn' AtfCeAfI 

te fotuf mo cfioi'oe, 
■fAtin Ajtif cmtii'eAfi 
50 •oeiiieA'6 mo ftije. 


^TcAc Arioif m6 
A5 feinm ceoit 


I am Raftery the poet. 
Full of hope and love, 
With eyes that have no light. 
With gentleness that has no misery. 

Going west upon my pilgrimage 
By the light of my heart, 
Feeble and tired 
To the end of my road. 

Behold me now, 
And my face to a wall, 
A-playing music 
Unto empty pockets. 

It is when we read these runes and prayers, or these 
love-songs and patriotic songs, with their soft and 
beguihng movement, that we feel that we have touched 
the very heart of the people. Even above and beyond 
the old romance of Ireland the old poems of the peasantry 
stir and touch us. The old romance, fine, vigorous 
and manly as it is, has in it elements of bombast, of 
huge and jocose exaggeration, of rude savagery, which 
set it apart from the world of thought in which we live 
to-day. We appreciate the old tales only by a distinct 
imaginative effort by means of which we set ourselves 
many centuries backward into regions of life and into 
conditions of primitive barbarism not familiar to our 
minds. But love-songs like " An Tl6r ge^t "outt," or 
" CeAnti "Due "oiteAf," "SiuOAit, a ^v-a-o," or "'beAti Ati 
p^ HUAit) ;" spirited patriotic lays like " Ma "OOtfiriAiU 
AX>i> ! " or the original form of Ci^t^if citi tSn* need no such 

• Dr. Sigerson gives a translation of this original poem in his 
" Bards of the Gael and Gall," p. 258. 


effort. They express a universal human language which 
is unchanging from century to century. The old songs, 
often anon3mious, often coming out of peat-browned 
cabins and from the lips of the poorest of the peasantry, 
are the best literary heritage of Ireland. They are in 
most cases wedded to beautiful and still more ancient 
airs. Both the melody of their rhythm and the delicacy 
of their sentiment surprise and delight us. It is when 
we read these poems that we wonder most why Irishmen 
are content to be so ignorant of their own literature ; 
why they are so slow to rescue it from destruction, 
so careless as to whether or no it shall ever see the light 
in print, so little moved to desire that it should take 
its place among the recognised literatures of the world. 
To read them, too, is to supply ourselves with an argu- 
ment, perhaps the strongest that could be urged, that 
the language in which these poems were composed 
should never be allowed to die. For in no other language, 
except its own, could the poetical genius of the nation 
find a true and complete expression. The idiom of a 
people's thought can only be adequately conveyed in 
the idiom of the language they have created to express 
their thought. The difficulty of translating these poems 
into English verse without losing the colour, the 
intimate suggestiveness and the bewitching quality of 
the original, is very great ', it is yet greater when an 
attempt is made to reproduce the metre and the verse- 
structure of Irish poetry. Thus, either to create such 
poems or to enjoy them, they must be handled and 
read and sung in the original. The thought and the 
native expression of the thought cannot be divided. 

I would conclude by recalling the words of one who, 
though not himself an Irishman, was ever ready to give 


his aid and his influence to the cause of Irish learning 
and to extending the knowledge of Irish literature, 
the late Professor York Powell, Regius Professor of 
Modern History at Oxford and first Chairman of the 
Irish Texts Society. He says, in a protest on behalf 
of the Gaelic League, in whose linguistic and social work 
he was warmly interested : "I would willingly see 
much forgotten in Ireland that Irishmen choose to 
remember. . . . But for Irishmen to consent to 
forget what is best for them to remember, the cradle- 
song of their mothers, the hymn their grandmothers 
sang, the wise, quaint talk of the elders, the joyous 
verse and the .sad mourning verse of their own poets, 
and the whole fabric of their folk-lore, their folk-wisdom, 
their own names and the names of the hills and rivers 
and rocks and woods that are so dear to them, seems 
to me incomprehensible." (Life I., p. 282). 


■R.C. — Revue Celtique (Paris, 1870-1907). 

Z. fiir Celt. Phil — Zeitschrift fiir Celtische Philologie. 

Tr. T. — Irische Texte. 

Sil. Gad. — Silva Gadelica (S. H. O' Grady). 

Pub. Oss. Soc. — ^Publications of the Ossianic Society. 

Pro. R.I.A. — Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 

Anec. Oxon. — Anecdota Oxoniensia. 

Mans. Cust. — ^Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish 
(E. O'Curry). 

MS. Mat. — Manuscript Materials for Irish History (E. O'Curry). 

Note. — The Chapters at the head of each division refer to 
the corresponding Chapters of the Text Book. The Editors' 
names are printed in brackets. 



Vol. I., Chapter IV. 

Tdin b6 Cuailnge.—L.L. Text, and Germ. Trans. (E. Windisch), 
1905 ; Ferdiad Episode and Eng. Trans. (O'Curry) Mans. Cust. 
Appen. I. ; L.U. Text, Eriu, Vol. I., etc. (in progress) ; Eng. 
Trans. (Faraday), 1904 ; Eng. Trans, of portions, from Add. 
MS.. 18748, Brit. Mus. (S. H. O'Grady) in HuU's " CuchulUn 

Vol. I., Chapter V. 

Tales introductory to the Tdin. — Tain b6 Dartada, Flidais, 
Regamain, Regamna (E. Windisch) Ir. T., Vol. II., Pt. 2 ; 
Tdin b6 Fraech (O'Beirne Crowe), R.I.A., Ir. MSS. Series, Vol. I., 
Pt. I ; Adventures of Nera (K. Meyer), R.C. x. ; Debility of 
the Ultonians (E. Windisch), Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften 
Phil. — Hist. Classe, 1884; Vision of Angus, E. MuUer, R.C. iii. ; 
Dispute of the Swineherds (E. Windisch), Ir. T., III., Pt. i ; 
Recovery of the Tain, see " Proceedings of the Great Bardic 
Institution " (Connellan), Oss. Soc. Pub., Vol. V. ; Birth Story of 
King Conor (K. Meyer), R.C. vi. ; Birth Story of Cuchulain 
(L. Duvau), R.C. ix. ; Text only, Ir. T. I. 

Vol. I., Chapters I., VI.-VIII. 

(i) Second Battle of Moytura (Wh. Stokes), R.C. xii. 

Fate of the Children of Lir ; Fate of the Children of Tuireann 
(E. O'Curry), Atlantis III., IV., and Soc. for the Pres. Irish 

Fate of the Sons of Usnach (O'Curry), Atlantis III., IV. ; 
(T. O'Flanagan), Gaelic Soc. Trans., 1808 ; (Wh. Stokes), Ir. 


T., II., Pt. 2 ; and Soc. for the Pres. Ir. Language. Battle of 
Rosnaree (E. Hogan), R.I. A., Todd Lee. Series, IV., 1892 ; 
The Great Rout of Muirthemne (S. H. O'Grady), Trans, in Hull's 
" CuchuUin Saga " ; Cuchulain's Death (Wh. Stokes), R.C., iii. ; 
The Red Rout of Conall Cernach, Mod. Vers. (J. Lloyd), G.L. 
Publications ; Lay of the Heads, Reliquae Celticae, Vol. I. ; 
Phantom Chariot of Cuchulain (O'Beirne Crowe), //. Kilkenny 
Arch. Soc, 1870-71 ; Destruction of Bruidhen Da Choga (Wh. 
Stokes), R.C. xxi. ; Intoxication of the Ultonians (W. M. Hen- 
nessy), R.I. A., Todd Lecture Series, I. ; Tragical Death of 
Conlaech, Miss Brooke's " Reliques of Irish Poetry," 1789, 
Eriu, Vol. I., Pt. I, two versions (K. Meyer and J. G. O'KeefEe), 
and Reliqus Celt. I. ; Siege of Howth (Wh. Stokes), R.C, viii. ; 
Feast of Bricriu (E. Windisch), Ir. T., I. and (G. Henderson) 
Ir. Texts Soc, II. ; Violent Deaths of GoU and Garbh (Wh. 
Stokes), R.C. xiv. ; Bargain of the Strong Man (K. Meyer), 
R.C. xiv. ; Exile of the Sons of Doel Dermait, Ir. T., II., Pt. i ; 
Mac Datho's Boar and Hound (K. Meyer) Hib. Minora. Anec. 
Oxon. ; and Ir. T., I. ; Wooing of Emer (K. Meyer), R.C. xi., and 
Arch. Rev., Vol. I. ; Sickbed of Cuchulain, Ir. T., I. ; (E. O'Curry) 
Atlantis I., II. ; Wooing of Ferb (E. Windisch), Ir. T., III., 
Pt. 2 ; Wooing of Etain, Ir. T., I. ; Story of Baile the Sweet- 
Spoken (O'Curry), MS. Mat., Appendix II., and (K. Meyer), 
R.C. xiii. ; The Martial Career of Congal Clairingneach (P. mac 
Sweeney), Ir. Texts Soc, V., 1904 ; Violent Deaths of Ulster 
Heroes (K. Meyer), Pro. R.I.A. 

(2) The following contain translations of many of these tales 
without text : in English, Leahy, " Heroic Romances of Ireland," 
2 vols., and " Wooing of Ferb" ; E. Hull, " The CuchuUin Saga 
in Irish Literature"; in French, D'Arbois de Jubainville, 
" L' Epopee Celtique en Irlande"; in German, R. Thurneysen, 
" Sagen aus dem Alten Irland." 

(3) Summaries of Tales. — A. Nutt, " Voyage of Bran " and 
" Cuchulainn, the Irish Achilles." 

(4) Free Renderings. — S. J. O'Grady, "History of Ireland'" 
and " The Coming of Cuchulain " ; Lady Gregory's " Cuchulain " ; 
Mrs. Hutton's "Epic of the Tain." 



Vol. II., Chapters I. -VI. 

(i) Pfose. — ^The Six Volumes of the Ossianic See. Publications 
contain a great number of the Fenian Tales and Ballads ; others 
will be found in Rev. Celt., I.. II., V., VII., XI., XII., XIII., 
XIV., etc. ; Eriu, I., etc. ; and in Silva Gadelica. " The Colloquy 
with the Ancients" will be found in Sil. Gad. I., pp. 94-233, 
II. pp. 101-265 (S. H. O'Grady), and in Ir. Texte, IV. (Wh. 
Stokes) ; The Battle of Ventry (K. Meyer) Anec. Oxon., 1885. 
The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne (S. H. O'Grady) has been 
reprinted by the Soc. for the Pres. of the Ir. Language. The Gaelic 
League has printed " The Naked Man of the Riffian Mountains " ; 
the " Enchanted Fort of the Quicken Trees," and other late 
romances. Others, such as the " Flight of the Gilla Decair," 
and " The Kerne of the Narrow Stripes," or " Slender Swarthy 
Kerne," wiU be found in Silva Gadelica (S. H. O'Grady). For 
Collections of West Highland Tales, cf. (Campbell of Islay), 
Popular Tales, and Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, 5 vols. ; 
for Mongan Legend, Nutt's Voyage of Bran, and K. Meyer in 
Zeit. filr Celt. Phil. II. 

(2) Poetry and Ballads. — Ossianic Soc. Pub. ; Miss Brooke's 
" Reliques of Irish Poetry," 1789 ; Duanaire Finn (MacNeill), 
Ir. Texts Soc. vii. ; Poems of Oisin (Simpson), 1857 ; Leabhar na 
Feinne (J. F. Campbell), 1871 ; ReUquas Celticse (Cameron) ; 
Book of the Dean of Lismore (P. MacLauchlan) ; others in Zeit. 
filr Celt. Phil., The Gaelic Journal, etc. 

(3) Folk Tales. — ^Larminie's West Irish Folk Tales, 1894 ; 
Curtin's Hero Tales, 1894, and Mjrths and Folk-lore of Ireland ; 
Hyde's " Beside the Fire," and An Sgeuluidhe Gaodhalach, 2 
Parts, 1895-7. 

(4) Free Renderings and Studies. — Lady Gregory's " Gods and 
Fighting Men " ; S. J. O'Grady's " Finn and his Companions " ; 
A. Nutt, Ossian and the Ossianic Literature (Popular Studies) ; 
Mac Pherson's " Ossian " and " T«mora." 


Vol. I., Chapter X. 

Destruction of the Bruidhen Da Derga (Wh. Stokes), 1902 ; 
Battle of Magh Rath or Moira (J. O'Donovan), Ir. Arch. Soc, 
Vol. VII., 1822 ; Battle of Magh Leana (E. O'Curry), Celtic 
Soc, 185s ; Battle of Crinna (S. H. O'Grady), Sil. Gad. ; Battle 
of Allen (Wh. Stokes), R.C., xxiv. ; Battle of Cam Conaill (Wh. 
Stokes), Zeit. fur Celt. Phil. III. ; Destruction of Dind Righ (Wh. 
Stokes), Zeit. fiir Celt., Phil. III. ; Death of Murtough mac Erca, 
Story of Aedh Baclamh, Death of K. Dermot and Fall of Tara, 
Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Muighmedoin, Panegyric 
of Cormac, Battle of Magh Mucramhe (S. H. O'Grady), Sil. 
Gad. ; Boromhean Tribute, ibid, and (Wh. Stokes) R.C. xxiii. ; 
Expulsion of the Deisi (K. Meyer), Eriu, Vol. III., Pt. 2. 

Many of these tales will be found in Keating' s History and 
O'Flaherty's Ogygia ; also outlines in the Prefaces to facsimilies 
of Irish MS., R.I.A., and to the Book of Fennoy, Ir. MS. Series, 
Vol. I., Pt. I. 


Vol. I., Chapter XI. 

Adventures of Connla (Windisch), Kurzgefasste Irische Gram- 
matik, and (O'Beime Crowe), Kilkenny Arch. Jl., 1874-5 ; Bran, 
son of Febal (K. Meyer), in Nutt's " Voyage of Bran ; " Lay 
of Oisin, Michael Comyn (O'Flannery) ; Cormac's Adventure 
(Wh. Stokes), Ir. T., III., Pt. i, and (S. H. O'Grady), Pub. of 
the Oss. Soc, III. ; Voyage of Maelduin (Wh. Stokes), R.C, x., xi. ; 
Voyage of the Sons of O'Corra, ibid. xiv. ; Voyage of Suedgus 
and Mac Riagla, ibid. ix. ; Adventures of Columcille's Clerics, 
ibid, xxv.-xxvi. ; Voyage of Teigue, s. of Cian (S. H. O'Grady), 
Sil. Gad. ; Legend of St. Brendan (Wh. Stokes) in Lives of the 
Saints from the Book of Lismore * ; Vision of St. Adamnan 

* Tlie best introductions to the foreign versions of the Voyage of St. Brendan 
are — A Jubinal, La Legende latine de S. Brandaines, Paris, 1836 ; Carl SchrBder, 
Sonet. Brandon, 1871 ; Schirmer, Zur Brendan^s Legende ; English versions, Thomas 
Wright, Percy Soc, Vol. xiv., 1844 ; and cf. Zimmer's Study of the Legend in 
Kelttsche Beitrage, Zeit. far D. Alt., xxxiii. 


(Wh. Stokes), Calcutta, 1870, and in Miss M. Stokes' "Forests of 
France " ; Second Vision of Adamnan (Wh. Stokes), R.C. xii. ; 
Two Sorrows of Heaven's Kingdom (Dottin), R.C. xxi. ; The 
Ever-new Tongue (Wh. Stokes), Eriu, Vol. II., Pt. 2 ; Tidings 
of Doomsday, R.C. iv. ; Vision of Fersius,* ibid. xxv. ; Vision 
of Tundale (K. Meyer and V. Friedel), 1907. 

Summaries of the tales in Nutt's " Voyage of Bran, s. of Febal." 

* The Latin version will be found in Bseda, Eecle. Hist., Bk, in., ch. xix. ; and 
Connt Eamon's Vision (Latin) in O'Sullivan Beave's Hist. CathoUcw Iver. Com- 
penaimn. Tlie Msh versions of tlie Vision of Owain Myles have not yet been 
published. Tui-nbull and Laing have published early English versions (1837) ; and 
Turnbull a version of the Vision of Tundale, 1843. 


Vol. I., Chapter XII. 

Glosses ! Three Irish Glossaries and Goidelica (Wh. Stokes) ; 
by Stokes and Strachan, Thesaurus Palaeohibemicus (1901-3) ; by 
Zeuss, Grammatica Celtica, 1853 ; Zimmer, Glossae Hibernicse. 

Service Books ; The Antiphonary of Bangor and Stowe Missal 
(Warren) ; The Irish Liber Hyranorum (Bernard and Atkinson), 
pub. by the H. Bradshaw Soc. 

Martyrologies ■ Calendar of Angus the Culdee (Wh. Stokes), 
R.I.A., Ir. MSS. Series, 1880, a,nd.H. Bradshaw Soc. ; Mart, of 
Gorman (Wh. Stokes), H. Bradshaw Soc, 1895 ; Mart, of Donegal, 
O'Clery (Todd and Reeves), Ir. Arch. Soc, 1864. 

Saints' Lives (i) Collections: Colgan's Trias Thaumaturga, 
and Acta Sanctorum; Migne, Pat. Lat. 53, 80, 87, 88, etc. 

Fleming, Collectanea Sacra, 1667. 

Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore (Wh. Stokes) ; 
Latin Lives (E. Hogan), R.I.A., Todd Lectures, V., 1894. 

(2) St. Patrick : Tripartite Life (Wh. Stokes), Rolls Series ; 
Eng. Trans, of Mairchu's Life (A. Barry) ; Confessio (N. White), 

Pro. R.I. A., 1905. 



(3) S. Columcille : Adamnan's Life (W. Reeves), Ir. Arch. 
Soc, 1857, and Historians of Scotland, Vol. VI., 1874, and (J. T. 
Fowler), 1894, Clar. Press ; Eng. Tr., D. Mac Carthy ; O'Donnell's 
Life (Henebry), Zeit. fur Celt. Phil. III., IV., V. ; Amra Colum- 
cille (Wh. Stokes), R.C. xx. 

(4) Other Saints : St. Moiling (Wh. Stokes), 1906 ; St. 
Finan (MacaUster), Zeit. fiir Celt. Phil, II. ; SS. Ciaran of 
Saighir, Molaise, Cellach, Magnenn (S. H. O'Grady), Sil. Gad. 

Homilies, etc. Passions and Homilies from the L. Breac 
(Atkinson), R.I.A., Todd Lectures, 1885 ; Homilies and Legends 
from ditto (E. Hogan), ibid. 1895 ; Keating's Three Shafts 
of Death (Atkinson), ibid. 1890 ; Keating's Defence of the 
Mass (P.O'Brien), 1898 ; Fragments of Monastic Rules, hymns, 
etc., will be found in Eriu (in progress). 


Senchus M6r or Ancient Laws of Ireland (Brehon Law Com- 
missioners), 1865-1901 ; Book of Rights (O'Donovan), Celtic 
Soc, 1847 ; Saltair ha Rann (Wh. Stokes), Anec. Oxon., 1883 ; 
Triads of Ireland and Cain Adamnan (K. Meyer) ; Metrical 
Dindsenchus (E. Gwynn), R.I. A., Todd Lectures, 1900, etc. ; 
The Rennes Dindsenchus, R.C. xv., xvi. ; The Edinburgh Dind., 
1893 ; The Bodleian Dind., 1892 ; Coir Anmann, Ir. T., Vol. III., 
Pt. I. ; Cormao^'s Glossary, Ir. Arch. Soc, 1868 ; Dialogue of the 
Two Sages, R.C. xxvi. (all ed. by Wh. Stokes). 


Vol.. II., Chapter VIII. 

(i) Classical~Ta.le of Troy (Wh. Stokes), Calcutta, 1882, 
and Ir. T., II., Pt. i, 1884 ; Alexander Saga (K. Meyer), Ir. T., 
Vol. II., Pt. 2 ; The Irish Odyssey (K. Meyer), 1886 ; Virgil's 
JEneid (G. Calder), Ir. Texts Soc, Vol. VI., and cf. Episode of 
Dido (T. Hudson Williams), Zeit. fUr Celt. Phil. II. 


(2) Medicsval — The Gaelic Maundeville, and the Gaelic Marco 
Polo (Wh. Stokes), Zeit. fiir Celt. Phil. II. ; The Gaelic Bevis of 
Hampton (Robinson), ibid ; Irish version of Nennius (J. H. 
Todd), Ir. Arch. Soc, 1848, and (E. Hogan), R.I.A., Todd 
Lecture Ser., 1895. 


Vol. II., Chapters X.— XII 

Annals of the Four Masters (O'Donovan), 6 vols. ; Annals 
of Ulster (W. Hennessy and B. MacCarthy), 4 vols. 

In the Rolls Series, Annals of Lough Ce and Chronicum 
Scotorum (W. Hennessy) ; Wars of the Gaedhil with the Gaill 
(J. H. Todd). 

Ann. of Clonmacnois, Eng. trans, by MacGeoghegan (ed. by 
D. Murphy) ; Ann. of Tighernach (Wh. Stokes), R.C. xvi.-xviii. 

Mac Firbis' Annals of Ireland (O'Donovan), Ir. Arch. Soc, i860 ; 
Leabhar Oiris, Eriu, Vol. I., Pt. I. ; Career of Cellachan of Cashel, 
and The Fomorians and Norsemen, A. Bugge, Christiana, 1905 ; 
O'Clery's Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell (D. Murphy), 1893 ; 
P. O'Sullivan-Beare's Historiae CathoUcae Iverniae Compendium, 
Latin (M. Kelly) ; Extracts of ditto in EngUsh in " Ireland 
under Elizabeth" (M. Byrne); R. O'Flaherty's Ogygia, 1685 ; 
John Lynch, Cambrensis Eversus (M. Kelly), Celtic Soc, 1848. 

G. Keating's History of Ireland, Part i (D. Comyn), Ir. Texts 
Soc., 1901, Parts ii., iii. (P. S. Dinneen), in press ; Introduction 
only (D. Comyn), GaeUc League ; Part i (Joyce), 1900 ; Eng. 
Trans, only (O'Mahony), 1857. 

Vol. I., Chapters XIII.— XV. Vol. II., Chaps. XIII., XIV. 

Examples of the older poetry of the bards and of the official 
poets will be found in the following works : — O'Curry, " Mans. 
Oust.", and " MS. Mat. " ; Petrie's " Tara " ; Atlantis, Vol. IV. ; 


Miss Brooke's " Reliques of Irish Poetry " ; Hardiman's " Irish 
Minstrelsy," 1831 ; Miscellany of the Ceto'c Soc, 1846 ; Kilkenny 
Arch. Jl., Vol. I., etc. ; Skene, Celtic Scotland, Appen. ; Gaelic 
Soc. Pub., 1808 ; Book of the Dean of Lismore ; ReUquae 
Celticae ; Topographical Poems (O'Donovan), Irish Arch, and 
Celtic Soc, 1862, and 1841 ; Bardic Poems from Copenhagen 
MS. (L. C. Stem), Zeit. fur Celt. Phil., II. ; Catalogue of MSS. in 
the British Museum (S. H. O'Grady) ; Otia Merseiana (K. Meyer) ; 
Eriu, etc. 

Separate poems ; King and Hermit, 1901 ; Liadan and 
Curitiier, 1902 ; Songs of Summer and Winter, 1903 (K. Meyer) ; 
Vision of Mac Conglinne (K. Meyer), 1892 ; cf. Thurneysen's 
Mittelirische Verslehen, Ir. Texte III., Pt. i, and pieces in Eriu, 
Gaelic Journal, etc. 


Vol. II., Chapters XV.-XVI. 

The following have been pubHshed by the GaeUc League : — 
Keating's Poems (J. Mac Erlean), Geoffrey O'Donoghue of the 
Glen, Pierce Ferriter, Seaghan Claragh Mac DonneU, Owen Roe 
O'Sullivan, Tadhg Gaedealach O'SulHvan, Poets of the Maigue, 
i.e., John O'Tuomy and Andrew M'Grath (all ed. by P. S. Dinneen), 
Pierce Mac Gerald (R. Foley), John O'Neachtan (A. O'Farrelly), 
John O'Murchada na Raithineach (T. O'Donoghue), Colm 
de Wallace (J. Lloyd). 

Egan O'Rahilly's Poems (P. S. Dinneen), Ir. Texts Society, 
1900 ; Brian Merriman's " Midnight Court " (C. L. Stem), Zeit. 
fur Celt. Phil. V., 1905, and [F. W. O'Connell) ; Raftery's Songs 
(D. Hyde), 1903 ; Poems of Donagh Roe Macnamara (T. Flannery), 

A good number of T. O'Carolan's Poems will be found in 
Hardiman's Irish Minstrelsy, II. (1831). 

Collections. — Besides Hardiman's two volumes, the following, 
among others, contain a good number of the Jacobite or popular 
songs and Ijnics : ReUques of Irish Jacobite Poetry, 1844 ; 
The Pious Miscellany of T. G. O'Sullivan (1868), and the Irish 


Language Miscellany (J. O'Daly), 1876 ; Poems written by 
Clare Bards (B. O'Looney), 1863 ; Reliques of Irish Poetry 
(Brooke) ; Poets and Poetry of Munster (Mangan), 1849 ; Love 
Songs of Connacht and Religious Songs of Connacht (D. Hyde) ; 
Amhrain Chlainne Gaedheal (M. and T. O'Malley), Irish Popular 
Songs (E. Walsh), 1847 ; Ce61-Sidhe (N. Borthwick) ; cf. Bunting's 
and Joyce's collections of Ancient Irish Music, and Dr. A. Car- 
michael's " Carmina Gadelica." 

Translations. — Bards of the Gael and Gall (Sigerson) ; Spirit 
of the Nation (Duffy) ; Lays of the Western Gael (Ferguson) ; 
Irish Song-book (Graves) ; cf. Lyra Celtica (Sharp) ; Treasury 
of Irish Poetry (Brooke and RoUeston). 


D'Arbois de Jubainville, Cours de Litterature Celtique, 
Vols. I., II.,* v., VI., VII., VIII. ; and Essai d'un Catalogue 
de la litt. epique de I'lrlande, 1883. 

E. O' Curry, Manuscript Materials of Irish History, and Manners 
and Customs of the Ancient Irish. 

D. Hyde, Literary History of Ireland, Three Centuries of 
Gaehc Literature, and Mac Ternan Prize Essay on Irish Poetry. 

P. W. Joyce, Social Life in Ireland, and Old Celtic Romances. 

A. Nutt, Voyage of Bran, and Popular Studies in Mythology, 
Nos. 3, 8. 

E. O'Reilly, Irish Writers (Ibemo-Celtic Soc, 1820). 
Sir James Ware, The Writers of Ireland, 1746. 

J. C. Walker's Memoirs of the Irish Bards. 

Irish Articles in Dictionary of National Biography. 

S. H. O'Grady's Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British 

* Vol. II. " Le cycle mythologiciue-irlandais," has been translated into English 
by E. I. Best. 



Lady Guest's Mabinogion ; New Ed., A. Nutt. 

W. F. Skene, The Four Ancient Books of Wales. 

T. Stephen's Literature of the Cymri, and the Gododin of 

Anwyl's Celtic Religion. 

Sir J. Rhys, Celtic Heathendom (Hibbert Lectures, i 
Celtic Folk-lore, Welsh and Manx. 

Ivor B. John, The Mabinogion (Popular Studies). 


Achilles, 78, 82. 

Adamnan's Life of Columcille, 

' Adventures of a Luckless 

Fellow ' (Eachtra ghiolla an 

dmarain), 147-150. 
' Adventures of Clan Thomas,' 

' Adventures of Tadhg Dubh,' 


' Adventures of Turlough, s. of 
Starn," 213. 

' Adventures of Turlough' s Three 
Sons,' 213. 

'Adventures of the Crop-eared 
Dog ' (Eachtra an mhadhra 
mhaol), 84. 

■ Adventures of Eagle Boy ' 

' {Eachtra mhic an lolair), 84. 

Aedh mac Moma, see GoU. 

^neid, Irish Version of, 80. 

' ^neid. The Mock,' or Adven- 
tures of a Luckless Fellow, 

Aislingi (see Visions). 

Alexander Saga, 78-yg. 

Almhain or Allen, 4, 19, 22, 37, 

Annalists, their position, 87-88. 

Annals of the Four Masters, 97, 
104-114, 138, 154; true title 
of, io8 ; reliability of, 109- 
114; poetry in, 127; Annals 
of Boyle, 122 ; of Cambriae, 

110; of Connacht, 120; of 
Clonmacnois, 120 122 ; 

Chronicum Scotorum, 1 16 ; 
of Ireland, 131 ; of Innis- 
fallen, n8, 119; of Loch 
Ce (or Kilronan), 119 ; Leab- 
har Oiris, 122 ; of Tighernach, 
115, 119 ; of Ulster, 109, 115. 

Annales breves Hibemiae, 132. 

Annales Hiberniae, 131. 

Angus of the Satires, or Bard 
Ruadh (see O'Daly). 

Armagh, Book of, ii8. 

Arthurian Romances, 84. 

Aoibhill or Evall, fairy princess, 
149, 151, 194. 

Aughrim, Defeat of, 185. 

Baeda, the Ven., 115, 121. 

Baeiscne, Clann, 3, 6. 

Bardic Schools, 87, 162, 164 ; 
Profession, 154-155 ; fees, 155- 
157; metres, 160-162, 187-188; 
Assemblies, 201, 206-207. 

Battles, of Aughrim, 185 ; the 
Boyne, 185, 198, 219 ; Chester, 
35 ; Clontarf, 35, 119, 124, 
126 ; Cnuca, 3, 6, 42 ; Cur- 
lew Mts., 96 ; Gabhra or 
Gaura, 3, 7, 44, 45 ; Kinsale, 
95, 158; Magh Rath or 
Moira, 35, 96, 113; Ros- 
naree, 35 ; Sligo, 128 ; Ventry, 
47. 48-52- 



Benn Edair or Howth, 74. 

Bodleian Library, Oxford, 116, 

Book of Ballymote, 80 ; of 
the Dun, 100, no; of the 
Dean of Lismore, 19 ; of 
Glendalough, 10 1 ; of In- 
vasions, 99, 100-102 ; of 
Lecan, 88 ; of Lecan (Yellow 
Book of), 89 ; of Lismore, 
83 ; of Leinster, 100, loi ; 
of Ser Marco Polo, 83. 

Boyne, R. (Boinn), 4, 25. 

Boyne, Battle of, 185, 198, 219. 

Brian, King (Boru), 32, 118, 
123, 124. 

British Museum, Library of, 
118, 139M, 197M. 

Burlesques, 143-153. 

Caeilte, 21, 45, 62 ; his songs, 

72, 73- 
Cael, Death of, 49-51. 
Cairbre, K. of Ireland, 7. 
Calendar (or Felire) of ^ngus, 

103 ; of Cashel, 103 (see 

Cambrensis Eversus, 90. 
Carew, Sir George, President of 

Munster, 130, 136, 158, 175,176. 
Carolan, Turlough, 214-218. 
Cellach, St., his Hymn, 75. 
Cellachan of Cashel, 126-127. 
Charles Stuart, ' The -Young 

Pretender,' 192-3, 198. 
Chronicum Scotorum, 116. 
Cinaedh hui Artacain, 31. 
Clanricarde, Earls of, 158, 163, 

169, 177. 

Classical Adaptations, 78-84. 
ChfEord, Sir Conyers, 96. 
Clonmacnois, Abbots of, 115, 

117; Annals of, 120-122, 127. 
Clontarf, Battle of, 35, 119, 124, 

Clyn, Friar John, his Annals, 

Colgan, Rev. John, 98, 108, 137, 
183 ; his Lives of the Saints, 

98, 137- 
Colloquy of Oisin and Patrick, 

Colloquy with the Ancient Men, 

26, 37, 45-48. 61, 70, 72. 
Columcille, St., 48 ; Life of, 113 ; 

Eulogy on, 31, 52. 
Comyn, David, 13SM. 
Comyn, Michael, 213. 
Conn, K. of Tara, 42. 
Connacht, Annals of, 120. 
Contention of the Bards, 94, 

158, 165, 167-169. 
Cormac mac Airt, 49. 
Cormac's Glossary, 31. 
Cnuca, B. of, 3, 6, 20. 
Crimthann, K. of Tara, in. 
Cromwell, 171, 184. 
Cuchulain, 12, 78, 96, 173M; 

Cycle of, 30, 31, 32, 51, 68, 

Cumhall, F. of Fionn, 3, 4, 5, 38. 

Dal Cais or Dalcassians, 23, 32, 

124, 125. 
Dalriada, Scottish, in, 112. 
Ddn Direach or Straight Verse, 

i6i, 188. 
Dares Phrygius, 79. 



Dathi, King, 91. 

Dean of Lismore, Book of, 19, 

Deibhide metre, 174. 
' Dialogue of the Body and Soul,' 

Diarmuid, semi-divine, 39, 59 ; 

death of, 57 ; Pursuit of, 14, 

18, 52-59. 
Dindsenchus, Metrical, 36. 
Dinneen, Rev. P. S., 199M, 210. 
Donegal, Monastery of, 106-108, 

137 ; Annals of (see A. of 

Four Masters). 
Dowling, Thady, his Annals, 132. 
Druids, 54. 
Duanaire Finn, 14, 15, 18, 20, 

21, 39, 61-63. 
Dunboy, Siege of, 130-131. 
Dymnock, John, his ' Treatise 

of Ireland,' 131. 

Edmond O'Clery, History of, 

Egbert, K. of Northumbria, 113. 
Elizabeth, Queen, 169. 
Elizabethan Wars, 164, 182. 
Eusebius, 115, 121. 

Fenian Legends, Characteristics 
of, 9-16 ; popularity of, 16 ; 
origin of, 18-30 ; slow accept- 
ance of, 30 ; three periods 
of. 31-33 ; provincial tra- 
ditions, 22-23 ; historical pro- 
bability, 34 (and see Ossianic 

Feradach fechtnach, K. of Ire- 
land, 5. 

Fianna, foundation of, 5 ; con- 
ditions of, 6-8. 

Fionn mac Cumhall (Finn mac 
Cool) legends of, i ; historic 
accounts of, 3-5 ; his qualities, 
21-22 ; his genealogies, 22-27 '• 
36 ; boyish exploits, 43, 44, 61 ; 
his 'thumb of knowledge,' 
44 ; poems, 61 ; his re-birth, 
40 ; death of, 4, 25. 

' Flight of the Earls,' The, 129- 

130. HI- 
Flight of the Wild Geese, 185. 
Firbolg, 27, 28. 
Fleming, Patrick, 183. 
Forus Feasa ar Eirinn, 136-137, 

Franciscan Monastery, Dublin, 

MSS. at, 130, 137. 
Fynes Moryson, 172 and n. 

Gabhra or Gaura, 3, 7, 44, 45. 
Gaileoin, tribe of, 26, 27-29, 

Genealogies by Mac Firbis, go. 
GoU (or Aedh) mac Morna, 5, 

18-21, 42, 62. 
Gormliath, Queen, 122. 
Grainne, d. of Cormac mac Airt, 

4, 14, 18, 52-56. 
Green, Mr. J. R., quoted, 185. 

Hardiman, his ' Irish Min- 
strelsy,' 221, 225. 
Harpers and Minstrels, 222-223. 
Harold Fairhair, 114. 
Hartney, John, poet, 213. 
Hector, 78, 81, 82-83. 
Hennessy, William, 117, 119. 



Highlands, Western, poetry of, 

220, 228, 230. 
Historia Britonum, 110. 
Historise Catholicse, 1 30-1 31. 
Hore, John, poet, 213. 
Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Life of, 

Hyde, t)r. Douglas, i6in, 224- 
225, 228, 229, 230. 

Innisf alien. Annals of, 118, 119. 

lomarhhdidh na bfiledh, see Con- 
tention of the Bards. 

' Ireland's Shepherdless Con- 
dition,' poem, 166. 

Jacobite Poetry, 192-205, 208 ; 

melancholy of, 221. 
Jacobite Poetry, Scottish, 200, 

James I., 169, 182, 227. 
James II., 185 ; his widow, 218. 
Johnston, Dr. S., 222. 

Keating, Dr. Geoffrey, 108, 163 ; 
life of, 133-136 ; his history 
of Ireland, 136-138, 139-140; 
poems, 135, 141-142 ; theo- 
logical works, 140- 1 41. 

Keats, 76. 

Kinsale, B. of, 95, 158. 

Latin, Knowledge of, 79. 
Leabhar Breathnach, 123. 
Leahhar Gabhdla or Book of 

Invasions, 99, 100-102; poems 

in, 102, 138. 
Leabhar Oiris, 122. 
Lhuyd, Edward, 93. 

Limerick, Surrender of, 185, 
196, 198. 

Lloyd, John, poet, 213. 

Loch Ce (L. Key), Annals of, 
119, 120. 

Lords of the Isles, 68. 

Louvain, 99, 183 ; works pub- 
lished at, 98. 

Lynch, John, 90, 92, 182, 183 ; his 
' Cambrensis Eversus,' 90. 

Lynch, Alexander, 182. 

Macarics Excidum, 132. 
Mac Alindon, Patrick, 218. 
M'Arthur, Robert, 168. 
Mac Brodins, bardic family of, 

155 ; Tadhg mac Daire, or 

'MacDary,' 158, 167, 169-171. 
Mac Cabe, Cahir, 218. 
Mac Canns, family of, 175. 
Mac Carthy, Florence, 176. 
Mac Conglinne (see Vision of]. 
Mac Conmara, Donnchadh Rua 

(see Macnamara). 
Mac Craith (see Magrath). 
Mac Cuairt or Cuarta, Dall, 218. 
Mac Curtin, Andrew, I2$n, 189, 

Mac Curtin, Hugh 'Boy,' 212; 

his Irish Dictionary, 213. 
Mac Dermot, Brian, 119. 
Mac Donnell, John Claragh, 187, 

188, 197, 200-203, 206. 
Mac Egans, bardic family of, 

89, 126. 
Mac Egan, Baoghalach, 168. 
Mac Firbis, Dugald, 88-91, 183 ; 

his genealogies, 90 ; his 

annals, 116, 117, 126. 



Mac Firbis, Gilla losa m6r, 88. 
Mac Gowran, Hugh, 219. 
Magrath or Mac Craith, family 

of, 15s, 171; Flann, 166; 

Andrew, 207-209, 220. 
Maguires of Fermanagh, 156, 

172, 176-178 ; Hugh, 172-174. 
Mac Keoghs, bardic family of, 171. 
Mac Leod, family of, 190. 
Mac Leod, Mary, igon. 
Mac Liag, bard, 122, 124. 
Mac Mahons, 178. 
Mac Marcus, Andrew, 166. 
Macnamara, Donagh Rua, 147- 

150, 187, 220, 227. 
Mac Pherson's ' Fingal,' 66. 
Mac Sweeney, Maelmora, 155-156. 
Mac Vurich, Scottish bard, 161. 
Mac William-Burke, 156, 177. 
Mac Wards (Mac an Bhaird), 

family of, 154; Owen Roe, 

165 ; Feargal 6g, 171. 
Maelmura of Fathan, 27. 
Mageoghegan, Conla, 121. 
Magh Rath (or Moira), B. of, 

35. 96, 113- 

Magnus or Manus, King of 
Norway, 33. 

Maigue, Poets of, 206-209. 

' Mangaire Sugach ' (see Ma- 
grath, Andrew). 

Maugan, Clarence, 165, 173, 228. 

Marco Polo, Book of Ser, 83. 

Martyrology of Donegal, Mart. 
Sand. Hib., 99, 103. 

Martyrologies, of ^ngus, 103 ; of 
Cashel, 103 ; of Maelmuire 
O'Gorman, 103 ; of Tallaght, 

Maundeville, Sir John, bis 

Travels, 83. 
Meave, Queen, 29. 
Mediaeval Adaptations, 83-85. 
Merriman, Brian, 147, 150-152. 
Meyer, Dr. Kuno, 145. 
Midnight Court (Cuirt an mkead- 

hoin oidhche), 147, 150-152. 
Mongan, 31, 39-40. 
Morna, Clann, 6. 
Mountjoy, Lord, 175. 
Muireadach O'Daly (Albanach), 

Munster, Wars in, 172 ; English 

laws enforced in, 169 ; poetry 

and poets of, 186-205. 

Nennius, his History, 123. 
Nial Garbh, 95, 107, 166. 
Niall of the Nine Hostages, iii, 

113, 167. 
Nuada Necht, 37, 38, 40. 

O'Brien, Donagh (see Thomond, 

Earls of). 
O'Brien, Torlough (see Triumphs 

O'Brien, Torlough, poet, 168. 
O'Bruadair, David, 188, 195-197. 
O'Bymes, Book of, 171. 
O'Cainte, Fearfeasa, 168 ; Mao- 

hn, 171. 
O'Carolan, Turlough (see Caro- 

O'CarroU, Maelsuthan, 118. 
O'Clery, John, 168. 
O'Clery, Lugaidh, 93 ; his life 

of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, 94- 

97 ; poems, 168, 169. 



O'Clery, Maelmuire or Bemardin, 


O'Clery, Michael, 97-103, 107, 
121, 138, 183 ; his Reim 
Rioghraidhe, 98, 102, 103 ; 
Martyrology of Donegal, 99, 
103 ; Glossary, 99 ; Book of 
Invasions, 100-102; Annals of 
the Four Masters, 99, 104-109. 

O'Clery, Peregrine or Cucogry, 

94. 107- 

O'Coffeys, bardic family of, 155, 

O'Connell, Daniel, 232. 
O'Connellan, Thomas, 222. 
O'Conor-Sligo, Cathal, 177. 
O'Curry, Eugene, 119, 202M. 
O'Daly's, bardic family of, 1 54 ; 

Lochhn Oge, 159; Angus 'of 

the Satires,' 170, 174-176 ; 

Conor, 171 ; John, 209JI ; 

Muireadach, 64 ; Clann Da- 

laigh, 175. 
O'Davorens, bardic family of, 89. 
O'Donnell, Hugh Roe, 94-97, 

107, 130 ; Rory, 107, 129 ; 

Nuala, 106, 172 ; Niall Garbh, 

95, 107, 166; bards of, 154; 
family of, 175 ; poems on, 

O'Donoghues of the Glen, 184, 

O'Donovan, Dr. J., 89 and n, 1 16, 

O'Dowds, family of, 89. 
O'Dugan, Maurice, 225. 
O'Duigenan, Peregrine, 107 ; 

Book of, 119. 
O'Durnan, Peter, 218. 

O'Farrelly, Miss A., 130M, 218M. 

O'Flaherty, Roderick, 90, 91-93, 

183 ; his • Ogygia,' 92 ; ' Ogy- 

gia Christiana,' 92. 
O'Gara, Ferral, 105 and n. 
O'Gillarna, Martin R., 229. 
O'Gnive, 161, 16271. 
O' Gorman, Maurice, 120. 
O'Grady, Standish Hayes, i25», 

i5o», i8o», 197. 
' Ogygia,' by O'Flaherty, 92. 
' Ogygia Christiana,' 92. 
O'Haras, family of, 179-180. 
O'Heffernan, Mahon, 160 ; Wm. 

Dall, 209. 
O'Higgins, bardic family of, 

155 ; Tadhg Dall, 155, 161, 

176-180; Conor, 156. 
O'Hoseyor O'Hussey, family of, 

171 ; Eochaid, 156, 172-174. 
O'Kane, Minstrel, 222. 
O' Kelly, Col. Charles ; his Ma- 

caricB Excidum, 132. 
O'Keeffe, Art 6g, 168. 
O'Keenan, Teigue, 129. 
O'Keenes, bardic family of, 89. 
O'Looney, Brien, 189M. 
O'Meaghers, family of, 175. 
O'Mulconry, Torna and Fer- 

feasa, 107, 138. 
O'Neachtan, Tadhg, 135M, 220 ; 

John, 218-219, 223. 
O'Neill, Art, 95 ; Shane, lygn ; 

Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, 129, 

138, 172 ; Turlough Luineach, 

179 ; Owen Roe, 165 ; poems 

on, 164-166. 
O'Rahilly, Egan, 153, 195, 197- 



O'Rourke, 177, 178, and n. 

' O'Rourke' s Frolic,' 219. 
I^Oisin or Ossian, s. of Fionn, 4, 

, 21, 45, 70, 71 ; Lay of, 213. 
\/ Oscar, g.-son of Fionn, 4, 7, 21, 

44, 76. 
Ossianic Ballads, 13, 61-65, 69- 

Ossianic Society, 67. 
Ossory, Annals of, 126. 
O'SuUivan Beare, Philip, 130- 

O'SulUvan, Owen Roe, 191, 197, 

198, 203-205, 220. 
O'Sullivan, Tadhg G., 186, 209- 

211, 220. 
O'Tuomy, John, 201, 206-207. 

\) Patrick, St., 45, 61-62, 70, 71, 

Phantoms, belief in, 14-15. 

Picts, Wars of, 35, no, 112. 

Pictish Chronicles, no. 

' Pious Miscellany,' The, 209- 

Plague, 113. 

Plantations, Leix and Offally, 
1&2 ; Munster, 182 ; Ulster, 
159, 182, 227. 

PoweU, Professor F. York, 235. 

' Proceedings of the Great Bar- 
dic Institution,' 144-145. 

Raftery, Anthony, 226, 231- 

Rebelhon of 1641, 184. 
Reim Rioghraidhe or ' Royal 

List,' 98, 102-103. 
Romans, 35,^110. 

Romances, French and Spanish, 

84 ; Arthurian, 84. 
Rosg metre, poems in, 125. 
Royal Irish Academy, 116, 117. 

Sarsfield, Patrick, E. of Lucan, 

185, 196. 
Satires, 143-153. 
Scots, 112, 113. 
Scotia, Major and Minor, 112. 
Similies, 83. 
Sligo, B. of, 128. 
Songs, of love, 222, 224, 233, 

234 ; of religion, 222, 228-230 ; 

different versions of, 222-223, 

Stilicho, General, 112, 113. 
Strafford, Earl of, 184. 
Stuart Poems (see Jacobite 

St. Isidore's Monastery, Rome, 

130, 183. 
St. Leger, Sir Warham, 174. 
S. Pietro in Montorio, Church 

of, 130. 
'Strong-armed Wrestler,' 219. 
Sualtach, 24, 36. 
Symbolism, 74. 

Tain b6 Cuailnge, 28, 52, 190. 
' The Roman Apparition,' poem, 

' Three Shafts of Death,' 140- 141 

(and see Keating, Geoffrey). 
Thomond, Earls of, 155, 158, 

169, i7on. 
Tighernach, 31, 115 ; Annals 

of, 115, 119, 127, 128. 
Tipper, Richard, 103. 



Tithe War, 232. 
'Tories ' and ' Rapparees,' 184. 
Torna Eigeas, 167-169. 
Tr6nmh6r, g.-fr. of Fionn, 5, 37. 
Trinity College, Dublin, 182. 
Triumphs of Torlough (O'Brien), 

Troy, tale of, 78, 82. 
Tuatha De Danann, 13, 14, 37, 

47, 49, 80, 149. 
Turpin's Chronicle, 84. 
Tyrconnel (Col. Talbot), 185, 

Tyrconnel (see O'Donnells). 
Tyrone, E. of (see O'Neill, Hugh). 

Ui Tairrsigh, 26, 27. 
Ulster Cycle, compared, 9. 

Ulster, Annals of, 115. 
Ussher, 115, 183. 

Ventry, B. of, 47, 48-52. 
Vision of Mac Conglinne, The, 

Visions or AisUngi, 193-19S, 
207, 220. 

Wadding, Rev. Luke, 183. 
Walsh, his Irish Popular Songs, 

Ward, Rev. Hugh, 183. 
Wars of the Gaedhil and Gaill, 

123-125, 127. 
Ware, Sir James, 90, 117, 183. 
Waterford, Schools in, 183. 
White, Rev. Stephen, 183. 

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